Four movie studios will start releasing films on the secure version of a new digital videotape format called D-VHS.
Artisan Entertainment, DreamWorks SKG, Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Studios said Wednesday that they will use JVC's D-Theater, the version of D-VHS that cannot be copied.
D-VHS is not meant to compete with DVD or VHS, both of which are designed for the mass market. Instead, the D-VHS format and its players offer owners of high-definition TV sets the option of recording and watching high-quality video. D-VHS players can also use VHS tapes.
Steve Feldstein, a Twentieth Century Fox spokesman, said he expects the format to coexist with VHS and DVD by serving a niche market of videophiles.
D-VHS tapes, which offer a 44GB capacity, can record and play four hours worth of shows from high-definition televisions.
"HDTV owners have had little to no content that takes advantage of what their televisions can do," Feldstein said. "D-Theater offers picture quality that is up to four times better than what's already out there."
Feldstein added that the first movies that Twentieth Century Fox will release with the D-Theater format are action titles such as "Die Hard" and "X-Men."
HDTV, which supports wide-screen viewing comparable to that found on a movie theater screen, offers up to 1,080 lines of resolution and 5.1 channel Dolby Digital surround sound.
JVC has had a $1,999 D-Theater player on the market since September; movies are expected to be in the $30 to $40 range when they start hitting the market in the middle of the year.