Blu-ray Disc player, movies coming on May 23

The Blu-ray Disc high-definition optical disc format will launch in the U.S. on May 23 when the first player and movies become available, backers of the format said Monday.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. will be first out of the gate with a Blu-ray Disc player. Its BD-P1000, which was first shown at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month, will be available from May 23 at Best Buy, Circuit City and specialist retailers, the company said in a statement.

No price for the player was given. At CES Samsung said it plans to sell the machine for around US$1,000, but the original launch date was slated for April.

The launch of players for Blu-ray Disc and the competing HD-DVD format have been delayed by protracted talks regarding the content protection system that is common to both formats. While discussions have yet to be completed, an interim agreement was finalized last week that allows companies to begin production of hardware.

Following the Samsung launch, similar machines from Sony Corp. and Pioneer Corp. will be launched and Sony will also begin selling a Vaio personal computer with Blu-ray Disc drive, the companies said. No detailed launch plans were disclosed.

Software for the new player will be released on May 23 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lionsgate Films.

The first Sony titles to be released will be: 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, A Knight's Tale, The Last Waltz (MGM), Resident Evil Apocalypse and XXX. They will be followed on June 13 by an additional titles including: Kung Fu Hustle, Legends of the Fall, Robocop (MGM), Stealth, Species (MGM), SWAT and Terminator (MGM). The first new release movie to hit Blu-ray Disc will be Underworld Evolution, which will launch in "early summer" on the same day as its DVD release.

Lionsgate's May 23 releases will be: Crash, Lord of War, The Punisher, Saw and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The first 2 titles will cost US$40 and the latter 3 will cost US$30, it said in a statement. An additional five titles will be launched in June and July: Reservoir Dogs, Total Recall, Stargate, Frank Herbert's Dune and The Devil's Reject.

The first player for the HD-DVD format is due to be launched by Toshiba Corp. in March in the U.S.

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