R.I.P. HD DVD

Toshiba today (Tuesday) formally announced the death of HD DVD, thereby ending its two-year-long battle with Sony over next-generation high-definition home video players. "We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called next generation format war and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," Toshiba chief Atsutoshi Nishida told a Tokyo news conference. "It was a tough decision," he added. The company said that it plans to shut down its HD DVD research and manufacturing operations by the end of March. The decision leaves Sony's Blu-ray system as the sole high-definition consumer technology and may end a wait-and-see attitude that has stalled adoption of such systems in U.S. homes. "With a single format, consumers may be more willing to buy high-definition DVD players, helping the market grow," Akio Mizutani, a Tokyo-based researcher at Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd., told Bloomberg News. But several other analysts pointed out that stand-alone Blu-ray players cost around $400 (versus about $150 for HD DVD players) and that, with either system, a significant improvement in picture quality can be noticed by the average consumer only on the largest home-theater systems.

JUNO MOST SUCCESSFUL INDIE IN SIX YEARS

With a current gross of $125 million, Fox Searchlight's comedy Juno has become the biggest indie hit since 2002's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which eventually grossed $241.4 million. Daily Variety also observed today (Tuesday) that it is also the only film this year to remain in the top-10 box office list every weekend since its debut. Moreover, it is the highest-grossing film nominated for a best-film Oscar, taking in more than twice the revenue of its closest rival, the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men, which has earned $61.3 million.

SPIDERWICK JUMPS OVER JUMPER

With kids out of school for the Presidents Day holiday on Monday Paramount's family film The Spiderwick Chronicles jumped over 20th Century Fox's Jumper to take over first place at the box office for the day. The movie took in $4.85 million on Monday, to bring its five-day total to $25,929,744, according to box-office trackers Media by Numbers. Jumper -- the top film over the five-day period -- took in $4.36 million on Monday to bring its holiday total to $38,191,015. Step Up 2 the Streets from Disney added $3.15 million to its gross on Monday, to place third with a total of $28,767,460 from Thursday through Monday. The only other film to open wide, Universal's Definitely, Maybe , was less impressive as it tallied $1.6 million on Monday, to place fifth over the holiday with $14,414,205. Warner Bros.' Fool's Gold, in its second week, captured fourth place with $2.1 million on Monday and $17.12 million over the five-day weekend, bringing its two-week gross to $44,390,687.

PORNO STUDIO CHIEF WANTS PORTALS TO BLOCK HIS STUFF FROM KIDS

The head of the country's leading pornographic movie studio has called on Yahoo and Google to use their resources to develop technology that would prevent kids from seeing films like his. Speaking to MBA candidates at the Yale School of Management, Steven Hirsch, co-chairman and -founder of Vivid Entertainment, said, "None of the search engines and portals, but particularly Yahoo and Google, has taken any significant steps in this direction. Vivid will work with any company that is ready to make it much more difficult for children to be exposed, even inadvertently, to material intended only for adults. This is not about First Amendment rights, it is about protecting children." Hirsch also said that he spends considerable time with performers he hires for his films to make certain that they are willing participants. "I spend more time trying to talk a new girl out of becoming a porn star as I do discussing the deal points of her contract once she's convinced me that she really does want to go down that path."

DISNEY TO RE-ENTER VIDEOGAME BUSINESS

Disney/Pixar is cutting ties to its longtime videogame partner, Agoura Hills-based THQ Inc., and plans to develop the game version of Toy Story 3 in house, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Monday). The newspaper described the studio's decision as part of an industry trend in which film and TV studios are once again building their own videogame businesses after years of outsourcing their development. Disney, the Journal said, plans to spend $180 million on videogame development this year, increasing it to $350 million within five years. However, it noted, giant media companies have had a notoriously unsuccessful history attempting to enter the videogames market. Brian Farrell, CEO of THQ, said that he wasn't surprised to see Disney decide to go "internal" with Toy Story 3. However, he told the Journal, "I've seen this before and the jury is still out."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.