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Blu-ray movies: Where's the audience?

The first Blu-ray movies are set to arrive next month, but is all this high-definition business really worth the hype?

2 min read

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has confirmed that its first batch of Blu-ray movies will arrive in the US on 20 June. The films, 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch and the House of Flying Daggers are set to coincide with the release of the first Blu-ray players, but are we wrong not to be excited?

House of Flying Daggers has been around as a high-definition sampler for ages, and the others have been getting heavy rotation in our DVD players for at least a year now, so the prospect of seeing them again doesn't exactly fill us with glee. Neither does the fact that we'll have to spend an inordinate amount of money for the pleasure of a few more pixels.

We've done the maths, and it's not pretty. To join the HD bandwagon at its most basic level (720p) you'll need to spend around $1,000 (£540) on a Blu-ray player and £700 on a 32-inch HDTV such as the Samsung LE32R41BD. To get the HDTV in its full 1080p glory, you'll need to spend around £2,200 on a TV such as the 37-inch Philips 37PF9830 and $1,500 (£810) on a high-end Blu-ray player -- bringing the total to £3,010.

So what do you get for your £1,240 or £3,010? In the case of 720p packages, you get movies that look just over two and a half times sharper than ordinary DVDs, or six times sharper in the case of 1080p. It hardly seems worth it, considering you can pick up a 32-inch non-HD television and DVD player for a quarter of the price of a 720p HDTV package, or a tenth of the price of a 1080p package.

It's early days for Blu-ray, but we can't help but think it's overpriced for what it delivers. Prices will certainly fall over time, but the initial success of the format could be hampered by HD DVD, its less expensive rival. HD DVD players should retail for around $499 (£270), and the movies should also be cheaper than their Blu-ray rivals.

One thing is clear: there really isn't room for two formats. VHS ate Betamax, and consumers will again decide whether it's Blu-ray or HD DVD that gets the nod.

What are your thoughts on the impending high-definition format war? Leave us your comments in the forum by hitting the link below. -RR