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Shrek the Halls is coming to town

The holidays are upon us again and the studios are pulling out their Christmas themed faire. One of the better ones to come around is from Paramount, ‘Shrek The Halls’. All your favorite characters are back voiced by the stars that you love. There is the big green guy, Shrek (Mike Myers), his lovely ogre princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their faithful sidekicks Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas). This is certain to become a new family tradition for everyone to enjoy. There is plenty of singing, dancing and fun for all.

Just when Shrek thought he could finally sit back, relax and enjoy his happily ever after with his new family, the most joyous of all holidays arrives. It's Christmas Eve, and everyone is filled with holiday cheer, except for Shrek. He isn't exactly the picture of yuletide joy, but for the sake of Fiona and the kids, he tries to get into the spirit of things as only an ogre can. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have their own ideas about what Christmas is all about, so when Donkey, Puss In Boots, Gingy and the whole gang try to join in on the fun, Shrek's plans for a cozy family celebration end up spiraling into one truly unforgettable Christmas.

The 22 minute animated film is presented in your choice of widescreen or full screen formats. Do the art of film a favor and get the kids to watch the widescreen and get them into seeing things in the aspect ratio there were intended to have. There are also plenty of extras to keep the kids busy while you are sneaking around the house hiding their presents.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Sing Along—Join along and watch the entire Madagascar gang as they celebrate the holidays in style with their own take on the "Twelve Days of Christmas." Sing along to the Madagascar-inspired lyrics, including "lemurs leaping, foosas fussing and a penguin who made a loud squeak!" In classic sing-along style, the words appear on screen as the characters perform.

Deck The Halls Sing Along—"Deck the halls, it’s time to party." This is your chance to sing along with everyone’s favorite Penguins from Madagascar. Join Skipper, Private and Kowalski for their version of the classic holiday song as they get into the spirit of the season.

Gingy’s Dunking Game—Test your skills at being a master baker and make sure you have plenty of flour as you try to match the Gingerbread cookies that come out of the oven with the Gingy that appears on screen.

Shrek Carnival Craze video game demo and cheat code

DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox

This is something every family will cherish for a long time to come.

Blu-ray Players predicted to drop below $150 on Black Friday

We are observing the Blu-ray player prices since a couple of weeks very closely and have identified the Samsung BD-P1500 as the cheapest Blu-ray Player beginning of October. The BD-P1500 sells for $211.73 now on Amazon.com, which is a price drop of over $30 in 3 weeks. Now the Sylvania NB500SL9 Blu-ray Player finally got a sales price below $200 with currently selling for $199.98. I still would by the BD-P1500 though.

The WSJ has published a report about the downward spiral of Blu-ray Players and cites experts predicting Blu-ray Players falling below $150 on Black Friday. With the current pricing of Blu-ray Players hovering around $200 it is very much likely to see decent Blu-ray Players for $150 on the day after Thanksgiving.
We already reported that Sears will have a Sony Blu-ray Player for $179.99 as doorbuster deal on Black Friday.

Blu-ray still has ways to go. According to Nielsen VideoScan only 4% of movie disc sales last month have been Blu-ray. For that Blu-ray share to go up the Blu-ray disc prices need to go down also and of course consumers actually need to have or buy an HDTV before it even makes sense for them to buy Blu-ray. Blu-ray might have a short live span if adoption is not going faster as HD video download services become more feasible nation-wide.

Netflix, Samsung in streaming partnership

Online DVD rental company Netflix Inc said on Wednesday that some of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's Blu-ray DVD devices can now play video streamed over the Web from Netflix. The Samsung/Netflix alliance is the fourth such partnership between Netflix and a consumer electronics company aimed at delivering movie rentals online rather than through the mail.

Netflix reached a similar deal with Blu-ray DVD player maker LG Electronics and has deals to stream movies to Microsoft Corp Xbox 360 videogame consoles and to a $100 set-top box made by Roku Inc. Netflix said customers who already own Samsung BD-P2550 and BD-P2500 Blu-ray players, priced at around $400 each, can upgrade these devices at no additional cost to enable instant streaming from Netflix's streaming service, with a library of more than 12,000 movies and television episodes.

Netflix, with over 8 million subscribers, has become a staple of home entertainment for Americans who like the user-friendly Web-ordering system for DVDs delivered through the mail. Its "Watch Instantly" Web streaming service is offered free to subscribers, and Netflix has been moving aggressively to extend that streaming service to TV amid increased challenges in the sector from Web giants like Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

Netflix said its members can visit its website to add movies and TV episodes to instant queues and will then be able to display these choices on their TVs, using a wired broadband connection and user interface.

Netflix said its members will be able to stream programs in standard definition onto Samsung and the other devices involved in these partnerships. It does not stream videos in the high-definition Blu-ray standard, but does offer Blu-ray DVDs through its by-mail service and recently began adding $1 to monthly membership fees to provide unlimited access to high-definition Blu-ray movies.

U.S. consumer awareness about Blu-ray is rising, but adoption of the technology still faces challenges due to price and customer contentment with standard DVDs, according to research company NPD Group. Some analysts believe holiday sales of Blu-ray players could now be hurt by the weak economy. Netflix this week cited the economy in cutting its current-quarter subscriber and revenue outlook for the second time in two weeks.

Blu-ray has case of the economic blues

This year, Blu-ray won the war. Now it faces another battle. Technology analysts say the world's economic roller coaster could mean consumers will be holding onto their money instead of buying pricey Blu-ray players and discs - the high-definition DVD format. Analyst Roger Kay predicts a "dramatic" drop in Blu-ray sales for the fourth quarter and beyond, pushing back adoption of the technology long enough to allow other forms of video over cable, satellite and the Internet to shut the window of opportunity for Blu-ray.

"If you can get movies over the wire on demand and have an entire library at your disposal on the screen a la Netflix, that's the way you're going to go," said Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

But Andy Parsons, the chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association's U.S. promotions committee, counters that naysayers also predicted doom for the original DVD players, which survived a shaky start to become the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history, even during the dot-com implosion this decade.

"We're hopeful even though things are getting a little tough out there, economically speaking," said Parsons, also an executive with Blu-ray backer Pioneer Electronics. "Everyone thinks of DVD as an overnight success, but it actually took several years for that overnight success to happen."

Blu-ray DVDs provide sharp, high-definition video and are seen as the next step up from the standard DVDs that first came on the market in 1997 and eventually shoved VHS video cassette tapes to the dustbin. Sales of DVD players hit as high as 20 million per year in the U.S., said Jim Barry, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association.

In February, the Sony-backed Blu-ray format became the standard for high-def DVDs when Toshiba decided to throw in the towel on its rival HD DVD technology. The format battle held back sales for both sides because consumers were hesitant about choosing the wrong side in the war. Sony's own PlayStation 3 video game console, which plays Blu-ray discs, helped swing the tide. With that roadblock cleared, Blu-ray backers hoped to see the start of an upswing in sales this year, especially as the holiday shopping season approached. Research firms such as Parks Associates in Dallas have projected worldwide sales of would jump from about 800,000 in 2007 to about 40 million by 2012.

But with the global economy in unprecedented turmoil, consumers are now expected to tighten their purse strings, which is bad news for sellers of premium-priced electronics like Blu-ray players, which are still mostly selling for $250 or more, said Russ Crupnick, an analyst with the NPD Group.

So while research shows consumer awareness of Blu-ray's capabilities is growing, they're still "going to be more selective in their spending," Crupnick said. "Because of the way they're pricing it, it's still a niche product."

Consumers may be more apt to place a higher priority on game consoles or an HDTV monitor, especially if they still consider their existing DVD players good enough for now, he said. Yet while Crupnick believes Blu-ray will have time to eventually become big, Kay thinks the current economic woes will continue into 2009 and deal an even more serious blow to the format.

While DVD players only had to battle the older VHS format, Blu-ray faces an oncoming rush of high-definition video challengers, including cable and satellite channels, video on demand, Internet video streaming and downloading services, and digital video recorders, Kay said. But Hollywood is still betting on the format, releasing more home video titles on Blu-ray. Major studios such as Disney and 20th Century Fox have recently begun releasing Blu-ray discs enhanced with an interactive feature called BD Live, which allows owners to set up Internet chats and access more content beyond the disc.

"We've been investing quite a bit of R&D and our future into this business," said Sven Davison, director of DVD production for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. "We definitely feel it shows a lot of promise for the future."

And Parsons notes Blu-ray disc sales have already jumped from 5.6 million units in all of 2007 to 8.8 million by the end of August. In addition, he said the market penetration for HDTVs in the U.S. continues to grow, priming the desire to eventually upgrade to a high-resolution video player.

Parson said Blu-ray's window of opportunity will be open for several years, and compared predictions of an all-digital video market to predictions that offices would one day become paperless. "Everybody remembers that as a rational, reasonable prediction that was absolutely wrong," he said.
 

Netflix Charging Extra for Blu-Ray Rentals

The online movie rental service Netflix has announced today that it will begin charging extra for Blu-ray disc rentals. In an e-mail sent out to members today, the rental giant said that since Blu-ray is a more expensive product to stock, the company will begin charging an extra $1 per month (plus tax) for access to the Blu-ray discs. The new payment will be automatic unless members opt out by removing Blu-ray access from their accounts. The new terms go in effect November 5, so any bills after that date will have your costs go up by a buck.

Paired with the streaming movies that will soon be offered by the New Xbox Experience, charging extra for the hi-def format (widely associated with the PlayStation 3) might make the Xbox 360 a more appealing proposition for Netflix members. Then again, the 360 streaming won't be in high-definition, and a dollar per month is hardly much to ask for sharper picture and sound.

Iron Man Booming On Blu-ray

Iron Man, the action hit starring Robert Downey Jr., apparently is breaking all records for sales of Blu-ray high-def discs.

According to Video Business, the Blu-ray Iron Man, which was released on September 30, is generating roughly 20 percent of all Iron Man sales. However, some retailers are reporting that 50 percent of its Iron Man disc sales are Blu-ray, with the rest standard-def DVDs. With past Blu-ray releases, the high-def disc usually represents only about 8-12 percent of overall sales. For instance, Video Business reports that the Blu-ray I Am Legend has generated just nine percent of all disc sales.

Paramount, which released the film, has yet to comment on sales figures for Iron Man. However, the film director, Jon Favreau, recently gushed to Howard Stern on the Sirius radio host's program that Iron Man has already outsold all previous Blu-ray releases.

Video Business says retailers believe that Iron Man is doing better than most Blu-ray releases because its comic book aspects is appealing to Play Station 3 owners; the video game console has a Blu-ray player inside. The Blu-ray two-disc edition is also priced at $39.99, the same price as the standard-def, two-disc version.

“In week-one sales, this is our biggest Blu-ray title ever,” Best Buy spokesman Brian Lucas told Video Business. "This was a tentpole title for the format. If you have a Blu-ray player, this is the title that you want to get.”

Sony promotes new Blu-ray players, format

This Christmas is going to Blu, if Sony has any say in it. The company is about to go all out in promoting Blu-ray as a technology, and will release with it two new players.  The company unveiled the BDP-S350 and the BDP-S550 Blu-ray players this week, and for the first time the company is offering players that are cheaper than the PlayStation 3. In fact, the BDP-S350 will only cost AU$449 at retail, while the S550 will cost AU$649.

Sony says it's unveiling a new campaign to promote Blu-ray in the coming months featuring an Aussie celebrity, and which will be exclusive to Channel 10.

Andrew Gardiner, the head of Video Ezy and Blockbuster said: "As a Scotsman I'm quite sceptical. I said: 'Let's get one of these Blu-ray things in'… I'm a pusher and a user, now. I really believe in it."

Both models are capable of displaying BD-Live content, a newly developed Blu-ray feature that lets you access the internet during a movie to download a variety of up-to-date content, updated previews, special features like ringtone/wallpaper downloads, peer-to-peer interactions, live events and gaming.

"BD-Live is like a blank canvas that's ready to be drawn upon, and our players are ready to take advantage of this technology," said Paul Colley, technology communications manager at Sony Australia.

A USB port on the players lets you connect USB flash-based memory to store downloads from BD-Live. The BDP-S550 ships with a 1GB storage device.

Sony's Blu-ray BDP-S350 and BDP-S550 players feature 1080/60p and 24p True Cinema output. The players also feature 1080p upscaling through an HDMI connection, potentially improving the picture performance of existing DVDs.

Both models include 7.1 channel DolbyTrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus decoding, bit-stream output, plus DTS-HD High Resolution Audio and Master Audio bit-stream output. The BDP-S550 adds DTS-HD High Resolution Audio and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, as well as 7.1 channel analog audio output.

The S350 will be released in October, while the S550 is due in November.

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