More studios are opting for Blu-ray format

TOKYO — About 75 movie titles, including The Da Vinci Code and Chicken Little, will go on sale in Japan this year using the next-generation Blu-ray DVD format.

More than a dozen Hollywood studios announced the Blu-ray offerings Tuesday, giving the format another boost as it competes with HD DVD to become the choice for delivering high-definition video with more vivid colors and sharper images than today's DVDs.

In Japan, HD DVD has announced about 40 titles, with another 140 in the United States including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Million Dollar Baby.

Blu-ray DVDs are already available in the United States, though the number of titles wasn't immediately known.

The Walt Disney Co., Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment, Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. and News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox were among the studios announcing Blu-ray titles in Tokyo.

Warner and Paramount have said they will release DVDs for both formats, giving Blu-ray about 80 percent of the global movie market. Universal Pictures has so far announced it will release HD DVD movie videos.

Blu-ray is backed by Sony; Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which makes Panasonic brand products; Sharp Corp.; Hitachi and Pioneer Corp. in Japan, along with Samsung Electronics Co., Apple Computer Inc. and Dell Inc.

HD DVD has the support of Japanese electronics makers Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp., as well as Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp.

The two formats are incompatible, meaning a possible rerun of the format wars that led to VHS' eventual domination over Betamax for videocassette recorders.

Electronics makers have either already begun selling or plan to start selling Blu-ray and HD DVD machines soon.

Blu-ray discs can hold more data, but HD DVD is more similar to regular DVDs, which simplifies production, according to its backers.

The HD DVD camp also has the slight advantage of coming to market first.

Although the film selection in the advanced format is still limited, numbers are expected to grow as Blu-ray and HD DVD players become more widespread as more homes around the world switch to TVs for high-definition broadcast.

Analysts say loyalty to either technology among Hollywood studios is likely to be thin.

Studios are expected to come out with content for whichever format proves popular, and it's not clear yet which side will win.