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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Days look numbered for Sony's UMD ... Shari Redstone speaks out about release windows

- The latest proprietary media format to fizzle? Sony's Universal Media Disc format, developed for its PlayStation Portable. Anyone who wanted to produce movies on UMD had to pay Sony a license fee, and the movies only played in that one Sony device.


Now two studios, Universal (coincidentally) and Paramount seem to have stopped supporting the format, according to this piece from The Hollywood Reporter. Wal-Mart also seems to be reducing the shelf space devoted to UMDs. Thomas Arnold writes:


    Observers speculate the studios released too many movies, too fast. Within five months of the PSP's March 2005 launch, 239 movie and TV titles already were either in the market or in the pipeline -- a significantly higher tally than games, according to the DVD Release Report.


    But while sales were initially strong -- two Sony Pictures titles even crossed the 100,000-unit threshold after just two months -- the novelty quickly wore off, observers say. The arrival last fall of Apple's video iPod only hastened the PSP's decline as a movie-watching platform.


- At a Bank of America conference in New York yesterday, National Amusements president Shari Redstone (she is also vice chairman of CBS and Viacom) spoke out in defense of the theatrical release window. According to The Hollywood Reporter:


    "Movies are meant to be seen in the theater," and exhibitors must focus on further improving the theatergoing experience and bringing the "wow factor" back to it, she said.


    Michael Campbell, chairman and CEO of Regal Entertainment Group, also addressed the issue of window collapses Wednesday, saying talk about such moves has been overblown.


    "The hype is greater than the reality," he said. Campbell argued that "the vast majority of the studios" have agreed that theatrical windows are important and they "know that they're committed to the theatrical" window, which he said shrank by only four days last year.