In a sea of Blu-ray success stories and related product introductions at CES this year, perhaps the most impressive wave to hit the annual Las Vegas show was Panasonic’s somewhat surprisingly strong companywide emphasis on home 3D in 2009 and the push for adoption of a home 3D standard this year – preferably its own 1080p Blu-ray based plasma display system with active shutter glasses.
The company has aligned itself in a major way with filmmaker James Cameron for his much-anticipated holiday 2009 mega-release of “Avatar” in 3D. Cameron himself went so far as to record a video testimonial for Panasonic’s new home 3D system that the company hopes to be ready for consumers in 2010, just in time for Fox’s presumed home video release of “Avatar.” Cameron’s producer Jon Landau told me that he and Cameron would be elated with that scenario. He also told me they are itching to put “Titanic” out in 3D.
(View video below to see these comments by Cameron and Landau and the Panasonic presentations at CES. Story continues below the video.)
Meanwhile, it didn’t seem possible that there would be more attention focused on Blu-ray Disc at CES last week than there was last year when Warner Bros. came into the show with the shocking news that the studio was dumping its support of HD DVD to solely back Blu-ray.
But on the heels of a surprisingly strong fourth quarter despite a historically bad economy and retail market, Blu-ray once again took most of the headlines with a flood of announcements by no less than eight electronics companies collectively announcing 18 new Blu-ray player models of every shape and size, including JVC’s first entry into the market, and 11 new players capable of delivering Web-connected BD Live features. Panasonic introduced the world’s first portable Blu-ray player and there were multiple other iterations including TVs with built-in Blu-ray players from Sharp and JVC, wall-mounted models and others that are only 1 ½-inches thick, players that accept online video streams, and even a combo Blu-ray/VCR machine.
Analysts and DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group touted Blu-ray player sales that tripled to nearly 10 million in 2008 (that’s including PlayStation3; separately, there are nearly 5 million stand-alone Blu-ray players in the market) and disc sales that quadrupled to 28.6 million and $750 million for the year, outpacing the record-setting DVD in its first 2 ½ years. About 8 million Blu-ray discs were purchased in the fourth quarter alone.
Disney announced a new marketing strategy of releasing combo packs of its new and catalog titles that include both Blu-ray and DVD versions in the same package. Upcoming releases include “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” (February 17), “Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition” (March 10), and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Platinum Edition” in October. Also coming on Blu-ray from Disney will be the Blu-ray/DVD exclusive premiere movie “Space Buddies” (February 3), “Pretty Woman” (February 10), and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” (March 3). Other titles later this year include “Monsters Inc.” and “A Bugs Life.”
Celebrity filmmakers were also touting Blu-ray at CES, such as John Lasseter of Pixar/Disney, who showed up unexpectedly as a guest speaker at Sony’s annual giant pre-show media event to sing the praises of Blu-ray alongside Sony CEO Howard Stringer.
But perhaps the most compelling news and filmmakers came during Panasonic’s CES eve presentations and invitation-only 3D demo of its new technology for the display of 3D HD via Blu-ray Disc on a plasma display. Their demo was very convincing and the enthusiasm for home 3D by Cameron and Landau was infectious.