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High-def titles late on delivery

Old 04-06-07, 07:44 AM
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High-def titles late on delivery

Retailers report Blu-ray, HD DVD arrive after street date
By Susanne Ault 4/5/2007

APRIL 5 | Relatively slim replication capacity on both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, compounded by production quality problems, is slowing down delivery of high-definition titles.

Many wholesalers and sell-through and rental outlets are receiving high-def versions of day-and-date releases several days later than the titles’ standard-definition version.

For wholesalers, this can mean spending hundreds of extra dollars on freight expenses to overnight high-def titles to clients in time for street date. Retailers often can’t put high-def editions of day-and-date releases on shelves until days after their intended Tuesday bows.

Large chains, which deal directly with studios and can skip the extra step of wholesalers, are experiencing fewer distribution problems than smaller outlets. Many studios and wholesalers declined to comment on the record.

Overall, the retail community reports receiving high-def versions by the first weekend of release, which many say is manageable as BD and HD DVD haven’t yet achieved mainstream consumer traction.

“We’ve absolutely seen brief delays on high-def, but it’s nothing past a week,” Scarecrow Video buyer Mark Steiner said. “It would have been nice getting in Children of Men though. This is the first HD title that I think our customers are really going to care about.”

Scarecrow, which uses wholesalers, received its HD DVD Combos of Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s Children of Men on April 2, after the title’s March 27 bow. The rentailer had standard-def copies on street date.

One wholesaler received its HD DVD/DVD version of Warner Home Video’s The Departed on the Monday before its Feb. 13 street, “which was a big deal because we had to spend four times what we normally spend on freight getting it to clients,” said a source. The standard-def version arrived at the wholesaler in adequate time to reach clients by traditional freight.

The BD version of Warner’s Happy Feet also arrived at many of the wholesaler’s clients after its March 27 street date, but the standard-def release was similarly delivered without delay.

“Blu-ray is a much more difficult process at this point than the standard-definition process, and because of that, the yields are lower,” said Lyne Fisher, spokeswoman at BD and HD DVD authoring company Cinram. “We are still perfecting our ability to manufacture titles.”

Fisher said Cinram is improving its production capabilities for both BD and HD DVD and projects the company will add 60% more capacity for the two formats combined in 2007.

“Standard-definition has been around since 1997, so we have a lot of practice and the process is seamless,” said Fisher. “So it’s only natural that when there is a new process, it can take more time.”

At this point, most BD replication is being done by Sony, but calls seeking comment were not returned.

Replication key

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has had to postpone the release of many BD titles, including Mr. & Mrs. Smith, originally expected March 13, as well as three set for April 3: Me, Myself and Irene; Dude, Where’s My Car; and The Fly.

Fox senior VP of marketing communications Steve Feldstein said there were no production problems with these titles.

“Our release schedule is a fluid thing,” he said. “We came out with Eragon on street date, and we will come out with Night at the Museum” on its April 24 street.

However, other studio sources agree that replication is a key reason behind high-def retail troubles. High-def check discs are returned much more often than standard-def counterparts because studios are still fine-tuning the color processing for BD and HD DVD.

“If you’re still having to go through check discs, and they aren’t up to par and are rejected, then ultimately that causes your timeline to be longer than standard-definition,” said one source. “Production people are working miracles putting out the [high-def] releases as fast as they are.”

Order times matter

Trickier replication procedures demand that retailers diligently put their orders in on time and in the correct amounts.

“For a big [standard-def] title, there’s not a problem when you order past prebook,” said Todd Zaganiacz, owner of Massachusetts’ Video Zone. “But it has been two weeks, and we still don’t have high-def on Eragon [which bowed March 20]. But it’s my own fault, because I put a late order on that.”

Retailers also can anticipate standard-def re-orders nearly immediately after placing a call but may have to wait up to a week for additional high-def copies.

“With 98% of the regular DVDs, we can get more of them the next day, but with HD DVD and BD, there is more involved in trying to secure stock,” Newbury senior buyer Larry Mansdorf said. “When you go through a wholesaler, they don’t seem to be as well-stocked on HD DVD or BD. There is a learning curve here from the retail perspective.”
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Old 04-06-07, 12:22 PM
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The situation seems even worse here in Canada for some titles (must be distribution issues). Hell, I still haven't seen the Nine Inch Nails BD anywhere here yet (the HD-DVD version showed up a couple weeks or more late)
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Old 04-06-07, 01:56 PM
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I can confirm that this is a problem. The store i work at got COM a week late, and its happened numerous other times as well. And i'm kinda worried about Smokin Aces coming next week as the SD are all ready to ship but the HD isn't ready yet. But The Game is ready so i'll at least get that one.
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