Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. will offer next-generation DVDs in the HD DVD format and drop support for Blu-ray, further complicating the race between the competing technologies.
Monday's announcement affects the upcoming DVD release of the blockbuster "Shrek the Third" and all movies distributed by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films, as well as movies from DreamWorks Animation, which are distributed exclusively by Paramount Home Entertainment.
Paramount previously released movies in both formats.
"Part of our vision is to aggressively extend our movies beyond the theater and deliver the quality and features that appeal to our audience," said Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. "I believe HD DVD is not only the affordable high-quality choice for consumers, but also the smart choice for Paramount."
The competition between Blu-ray and HD DVD has kept confused consumers from rushing to buy new DVD players until they can determine which format will dominate the market.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, said consumers seeking to switch to high-definition DVDs will be enticed by the content available for HD-DVD players. He added the lower price for the devices will appeal to the family market.
"Today Toshiba is making HD-DVD players available at $299, which is a first time that it's really been at an affordable price," Katzenberg said. "It's a game-changer, what they're doing, and it's why we decided to throw in with them."
Katzenberg said that, until now, the price for high-definition players was too high for most families.
"That barrier has just been broken and we believe it is going to, as I say, move down even further," he said.
Paramount and DreamWorks aren't the only ones choosing sides.
"Spider-Man 3" will only be available in the Blu-ray DVD format when it is released by Sony Pictures, while people with Blu-ray players won't be able to enjoy the action-thriller "The Bourne Ultimatum," which Universal Pictures will release only in HD DVD.
In terms of discs sold, Blu-ray has always had the lead. The format recently got a big boost as Blockbuster Inc. announced it would stock only Blu-ray titles when it expands its high-def DVD offerings this year.
Target Inc., the nation's second-largest retailer, said it will only sell Blu-ray DVD players in its stores in the fourth quarter.
With Paramount dropping Blu-ray support, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. remains the only major studio releasing movies in both formats.
Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures, News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox, The Walt Disney Co., and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer are releasing only in Blu-ray. Universal, owned by General Electric Co., backs HD DVD exclusively.