Blu-ray and DVD at Comic-Con 2011: Star Wars, South Park, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, and Catalog Classics

A first-hand report from The Digital Bits panel and more.

By , Columnist

The author heads on down to South Park via San Diego.

I just returned from San Diego where I participated in a panel at Comic-Con hosted by The Digital Bits. The panel, moderated by Bits owner/editor Bill Hunt, proposed that we are entering the Golden Age of Blu-ray, with dozens of hotly anticipated titles set to be released on the format over the next 18 or so months.

In addition to Bill and myself, the participants included Bits columnist Todd Doogan, DVD producers Charles de Lauzirika and Cliff Stephenson, and George Feltenstein, Senior Vice President of Theatrical Catalog Marketing for Warner Home Video.

Charles and Cliff are focused on producing Blu-rays and DVDs of new releases these days, with Charles hard at work on Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited Prometheus, while Cliff is busy producing Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance. With most of these titles yet to hit theaters, they were understandably limited in what they could reveal beyond "expect awesomeness." If you’ve seen Charles’s work on Blade Runner or The Alien Anthology and Cliff’s work on Gamer and Rambo, you know that awesomeness is exactly what you’re going to get from these discs.

George confirmed that Warner Home Video remains strongly committed to catalog titles, both re-releasing classics on Blu-ray and debuting never-before-available titles through their manufactured-on-demand (MOD) division, Warner Archive. Warner Archive has quietly turned into a force to be reckoned with. Sales have been strong enough that the studio is now able to remaster films and even include special features on select discs.

Reports of Blu-ray floundering in sales have been greatly exaggerated. While it’s true that catalog titles are generally lower than studios would like, new releases are selling extremely well. A-list catalog titles, such as the recent Lord Of The Rings extended edition trilogy, are also flying off the shelves.

Warner Home Video has an impressive lineup of classics reaching Blu-ray in the next several months, including Citizen Kane and Ben-Hur. Ben-Hur has received a meticulous restoration and a whopping 8K scan, the highest resolution scan ever given a film by Warner Bros., and the results are reportedly stunning. The studio is also preparing A Streetcar Named Desire, Singin’ In The Rain and Meet Me In St. Louis for Blu-ray, among other classics. Tests are also underway to see if it’s possible to bring the classic 3D films House Of Wax and Dial M For Murder to Blu-ray 3D.

The studio is also bringing classic animation to high-def with the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection: Volume One arriving on October 25 and the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume One streeting on November 15. If these sell well, more animation, including a complete collection of Tex Avery cartoons, are distinct possibilities.

Elsewhere on the Con floor, the big news was the arrival of the Star Wars saga on Blu-ray September 16. Fox had a huge Star Wars booth featuring a walk-through experience previewing special features and deleted scenes from the discs. The Shout! Factory booth offered giveaways and promotions of such titles as Battle Beyond The Stars on Blu-ray and Mystery Science Theater 3000 on DVD. My old friends at Troma revealed they’ve entered the MOD arena, offering deep catalog cult classics like The Capture Of Bigfoot through Amazon. And just outside the convention center, a recreation of the town square of South Park gave fans a chance to videotape their reminiscences and thanks for use in the upcoming 15th Season DVD and Blu-ray.

Comic-Con remains a one-of-a-kind experience, bringing fans and creators together to celebrate the things they’re passionate about. Movies, television, and DVD have established a presence that won’t be going away but Comic-Con’s focus on comics certainly hasn’t been lost. It can be an exhausting trip but it’s one well worth taking at least once.

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Adam Jahnke has been writing about film since age 13, when he began foisting a self-published newsletter on friends and family (copies of which are now mercifully lost to the ages). In 2000, he joined the staff of the highly respected DVD website The Digital Bits, where he continues to serve as columnist…

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