Though the market launch of the first HD-DVD players and discs does not officially begin until tomorrow (Tuesday), the online DVD community is already buzzing with fan reports of early street date violations at nationwide retail outlets.
Popular message boards such as AVS Forum and Home Theater Forum had been flooded with reports over the weekend of their members purchasing the first Toshiba HD-DVD decks as well as such initial disc releases as Warner's 'Last Samurai' and Universal's 'Serenity' ahead of official release at many major and independent retailers, including Best Buy, Circuit City and Magnolia Electronics. So widespread are the reports of leaks that the AVS Forum has had to open a dedicated thread on the topic, which quickly accumulated hundreds of posts in only 48 hours.
While retail outlets breaking studio and manufacturer-mandated street dates is not unheard of in the industry, it is unusual for a major chain such as a Best Buy to sell product ahead of official release. Stores caught violating street dates can be fined by a studio or manufacturer, as well as suffer restrictions or non-delivery of future inventory orders.
"What was most surprising and exciting was that they [Best Buy store personnel] asked if I wanted the movies to go with the player, and at that point I was pretty much in geek heaven!" said one gleeful member of the AVS Forum in a post this past Saturday. "To get them four days before the street date was pretty awesome. It's happening!!!"
The excitement over the early availability of the first HD-DVD players and discs is likely exacerbated in part by indications late last week that some retailers were anticipating delays in the arrival of players and discs to their stores. As we reported on Friday, online merchants including Amazon and Best Buy were forced to adjust the expected availability estimates for customers by as much as a week after street date, as their initial HD-DVD player and disc shipments had not yet arrived by the start of the weekend.
With HD-DVD's official launch now looks certain to go off as scheduled beginning tomorrow, don't expect the online fan frenzy to die down anytime soon. Many of the enthusiastic forum posters have also already uploaded detailed analyses of their new purchases, many including extensive pictures of the HD-DVD products in action. Attentions will now be turning to how well these first-gen HD-DVD products meet expectations.
Watch for our comprehensive reviews of the first HD-DVD discs to appear on High-Def Digest later today.