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Huge Heap O' High-Def Releases

In the last week or two the huge announcements on HD releases for this fall just haven't stopped coming. Sam Peckinpah's classic Western, The Wild Bunch hitting Blu-ray and HD DVD in September was just the beginning.

This holiday shopping season is not only critical in the format war, it's huge for HD on a disc, period. And the studios are aiming their biggest guns in terms of new releases and coveted catalog titles.

Warner has announced four new Stanley Kubrick classics for release on October 23rd to both Blu-ray and HD DVD: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut. (OK, three classics plus that last one.)

The Blade Runner Ultimate Collection has been previously announced, but Warner confirmed a Deccember 18th release date and has confirmed that it will release to DVD, Blu-ray and HD DVD simultaneously. Further details have surfaced and they're incredible. The BD and HD DVD releases will be five-disc sets that will include the all-new Final Cut version of the film, the 1992 Director's Cut, the 1982 US theatrical cut, the 1982 Int'l Cut, and (drumroll please) the rarely seen "Workprint" version of the film. In addition, the five-dsic HD set will be available in a Limited Numbered "Deckard Briefcase" on Blu-ray and HD DVD that's loaded with collectibles.

Steven Spielberg is making his long-waited debut on HD on a disc as well. Twilight Zone: The Movie is hitting Blu-ray and HD DVD on October 9th, followed by Spileberg's classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind on Blu-ray on November 13th. This is going to be a three-disc set that will include the original theatrical cut, the 1980 theatrical re-release version and the "Collector's Edition" cut that appeared on home video in late 1990's.

On November 10th Paramount is releasing the entire run of Star Trek: The Original Series on HD DVD. The details here are sensational. Not only have all the episodes been remastered, these discs will feature completely re-tooled special effects. These re-tooled versions have been showing on TV from time to time, and in the episodes I've seen it's the space exteriors and things of that nature that have been re-done, well and tastefully. Greedo ain't shootin' first in other words.

Picture-In-Picture commentaries/interviews will be included as well as interactive tours of the Enterprise. The video will be presented in 1080p and and the remixed and remastered soundtracks will be Dolby TrueHD. This is awesome, awesome stuff.

Of the major summer releases, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is the first major announcement, hitting stores on Blu-ray on December 4th. But this won't be the last. Rumors abound that all five Harry Potter films, including the summer's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, will hit HD in a five-movie box set (most likely Blu-ray and HD DVD since it's Warner). And in its reports from Comic-Con Bill Hunt of the Digital Bits says that Sony is pimping the imminent release of all three Spider-Man films on Blu-ray. And I'll just say, as HD DVD's sole exclusive studio you'd have to think Universal would want to get Bourne Ultimatum out there so people have an exclusive HD DVD goodie to play on all those cheap Chinese players that will allegedly be on shelves this Christmas!

7/31 Update:
Some clarifications, courtesy of our friends at The Digital Bits. It is only season one of Star Trek that is hitting stores in November, although work on prepping the second and third seasons are supposed to be underway as I write this. And the discs are DVD/HD DVD combos with an outrageous price tag of $217. Even though street will be lower, and I love Trek with all my heart, that's just a stupid high price tag.

CE3K will be a two-disc set on Blu-ray, and will use seamless branching to present all three versions mentioned above.

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