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Indies defer format war's draft

Category: Beowulf & Grendel News
Article Date: July 11, 2006 | Publication: Variety | Author: DANIEL FRANKEL

Posted by: admin

Besides Lionsgate, few indies charging ahead with hi-def releases

When it comes to new formats -- and format wars, in particular -- independents are generally happy to let the studios spend the big money to develop the market.

And as expected -- with mastering costs alone for hi-def discs far exceeding that for standard-def DVD -- the smaller indies are generally standing pat as Blu-ray and HD DVD compete for supremacy at retail.

"I think hi-def is really going to change things, but we're waiting to see who wins out," says Dennis Hedlund, president and founder of specialty disc supplier Kultur. "We waited a year before we released our first DVD."

Still, coming relatively soon after standard-definition DVD quickly mushroomed into a global consumer phenomenon, indie producers and distribs are certainly thinking long and hard about hi-def disc.

"We're actually producing most of our stuff in high-definition, and we require a lot of the content we acquire from independent producers to be on hi-def masters," says Jeff Clanagan, prexy-CEO of Codeblack Entertainment, which acquires and produces programming aimed at African-American auds and distributes through Vivendi Visual Entertainment.

In fact, with many small indie producers having business relationships with larger distribs, the hi-def subject is coming up a lot these days.

Lionsgate, for example, just released its first flurry of Blu-ray titles, including Oscar best pic winner "Crash," "Terminator 2," "Saw," "The Punisher" and "Lord of War." At VSDA, CineTelFilms prexy Paul Hertzberg says he has meetings set up with Lionsgate -- his company's distribution partner -- to specifically discuss Blu-ray possibilities.

"It hasn't figured into our business model yet, but our distribution partner, Anchor Bay, just yesterday sent me an email asking if we'd considered issuing a Blu-ray version of (upcoming release) 'Beowulf & Grendel,'" adds Paul Gardner, president of Union Station Media.

Meanwhile, besides Lionsgate, there are a few indies charging ahead with hi-def releases. BCI-Eclipse has four titles skedded for simultaneous release on standard-def DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray in August.

And Magnolia Home Entertainment -- which is no stranger to innovation -- released four HD DVD titles in May including docu "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" and Steven Soderbergh's window-slamming "Bubble."

As for Magnolia's motivation to get into the hi-def disc market early, company VP Randy Wells sounds a tone very similar to that of the major studios:

"We've now reached a stage where consumers are seeking content in this format. The demand is there, the hardware systems are available, and we want to put our product out there so consumers have something to support their new systems."


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