Exclusive: Spielberg "Big Supporter" of Blu-ray, But Future High-Def Releases Uncertain

Posted Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 08:46 AM PDT by
Steven Spielberg

Confirming mounting speculation, we've got exclusive word this morning that Steven Spielberg is indeed "a big supporter" of Blu-ray, and that the one-sentence "Spielberg carve out" in yesterday's Paramount/DreamWorks HD DVD announcement was designed to allow the legendary director to release future titles on Blu-ray.

With many of his early blockbusters distributed by Universal Pictures ('E.T.,' 'Jurassic Park' and 'Jaws,' among them), it was once assumed that the combination of Steven Spielberg's classic titles and Universal's exclusive HD DVD support would be one of format's biggest weapons against rival Blu-ray, but a series of developments have led many to speculate that perhaps Spielberg himself has other ideas.

The first hint of trouble for HD DVD came back in February when the HD DVD promo group issued a public apology to Spielberg after listing several of his titles in a "Coming Soon" list that was apparently never approved by the director.

Then, just last month came news that the very first Spielberg high-def title -- a 30th anniversary edition of 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' -- would be released on Blu-ray, not HD DVD. (That release is due November 13, day and date with the standard-def DVD edition.)

Finally, yesterday's stunner of a Paramount/DreamWorks HD DVD exclusivity press release included a conspicuous one line carve-out, stating that Spielberg's DreamWorks films would be exempt from the terms of the HD DVD exclusivity arrangement, opening the door to the possible future release of more recent Spielberg blockbusters on Blu-ray.

So what's the deal? We put that question to the source for all things Spielberg -- his longtime spokesman and DreamWorks marketing exec Marvin Levy. Speaking exclusively with High-Def Digest, Levy confirmed Spielberg's active support of Blu-ray with the selection of 'Close Encounters' for his next-gen debut.

"It was important to Steven that if any of his films were to be released [first] on high-definition, that it would be a classic," said Levy. "Steven is big supporter of Blu-ray, and chose 'Close Encounters' to be the first of his films on either format."

Spielberg approved the new high-def transfer made for the film, and among the Blu-ray's supplements is a new introduction recorded by the director specifically for the release, as well as a storyboard comparison.

Levy further clarified the Paramount/DreamWorks press release, saying that "...his movies, like 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'War of the Worlds,' are not included in that deal. They are not exclusive to HD DVD, nor [are they] planned for that format at this time.'"

Levy went on emphasize that beyond 'Close Encounters,' Spielberg has no other films in the high-def pipeline on either format. "At this moment, there are no plans for something further [on either format]. Anything in the future will be decided on a title-by-title basis. There certainly won't be more titles in 2007."

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Discs mentioned in this article: (Click for specs and reviews)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Tags: Steven Spielberg, Industry Forecasts (all tags)