If you are looking for that favorite hard-to-find cult film or an Asian scifi, fantasy, or action movie on DVD or Blu-ray, there are booths selling them. Also, movie and TV studios, not only promote their upcoming release dates or Fall seasons, they also promote their upcoming DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases. This year was no exception as Luscafilm, Burn Notice, Supernatural, BBC America, and a host of other TV and movie studios were heavily promoting their Blu-ray and DVD products.
However, there were some other home theater-related items of interest this year. Starz was on hand with a special booth for its Spartacus TV series that featured some great gladiator action sequences in 3D displayed on a couple of Sony LED/LCD TVs with active shutter glasses. It appeared that the footage was converted from an original 2D source, but it did looked very good. Starz was smart to place the TVs inside the semi-enclosed booth to minimize ambient light reflections from the convention floor.
Another interesting thing I found on the convention floor, was at the Lionsgate booth, which was using Vizio TVs for their "touch wall" video displays, and the Vizio brand name was prominently displayed all around the booth. Vizio is becoming increasingly aggressive in tying themselves into high-profile events. It would be interesting to see other TV brands pursuing this course, and the San Diego Comic-Con is certainly a way to bring a name to over 100,000 attendees that are also potential customers.
However, to get to the meat of how the San Diego Comic-Con can intersect with home theater was the informative panel I attended: The Golden Age of Blu-ray. The panel participants included Bill Hunt, Adam Janke, and Todd Doogan of Digital Bits.com, as well as Blu-ray Disc producers, Charles de Lauzirika and Cliff Stephenson. In addition, George Feltenstein, vice-senior vice-president of catalog marketing for Warner Home Video was also on hand to lend his opinions and discuss some interesting things going on in his department.
The main topics discussed by the panel included:
- DVD sales have slowed down, but Blu-ray disc movie sales have increased tremendously, especially with regards to new movie releases. However, it was noted that the Blu-ray/HD-DVD format war did not help the adoption rate of a high definition disc format by many consumers.
- Catalog releases of older films on Blu-ray are a challenge, since many consumers already own many older titles on DVD. The challenge to the studios and Blu-ray Disc producers is to provide increased value, via new restorations, or added relevant special features that will make consumers want to double-dip on a new Blu-ray version of a previously released DVD. However, it was pointed out that the new Lord of the Rings - Extended Trilogy was doing very well, and the forthcoming releases of the Star Wars Trilogy, Ben Hur, West Side Story 50th Anniversary Edition, and Breakfast at Tiffany's are being meticulously put together with new transfers and high value added extras.
- Movie streaming services, such as Netflix, present challenges to both DVD and Blu-ray purchasing habits, but all the panelists agreed that when it comes to a quality video and audio experience, nothing beats Blu-ray yet. However, getting consumers to care about quality over convenience and price is always a challenge, especially now with the use of internet streaming for watching TV programs and movies, and iPods for listening to music.
- George Feltenstein discussed an interesting marketing strategy from Warner that has been allowing consumers access to more obscure movies releases, via its Warner Archive Collection. The way the system works is that the consumer can go online and select from a group of movie titles and either pay for a download, or purchase a hard-copy on DVD that Warner will press on a DVD-R and mail to the consumer. So far, the program is very successful and Warner is now offering about 1,000 titles to consumers using this system. For more details, check out the Waner Archive Collection DVD on-demand page.
- Of course, a discussion of Blu-ray isn't complete without mentioning 3D, and as with the general public, panel participants and the panel attendees had mixed opinions on the 3D phenomenon, making the point that most people don't want to wear glasses to watch TV, that most 3D movies to use the 3D effect wisely, and that many 3D movies aren't good movies to begin with, regardless of 2D or 3D. However, that being said, George Feltenstein indicated that Warner is exploring releasing House of Wax and Dial M For Murder in their original 3D format.
- One final topic that was discussed, which is of special interest to movie buffs, was the possible future Blu-ray release of previously censored Warner Brothers cartoons that, by today's standards, are very politically incorrect or may be deemed to be racist. George Feltenstein noted that he is hoping that these cartoons can be released in a package that puts them in proper historical context for today's audiences.
Check out a video recording of the entire Digital Bits panel: The Golden Age of Blu-ray - posted by Gamespot.
For more About.com coverage of the San Diego Comic-Con, check out: