END OF THE HI-DEF DVD FORMAT WAR?

Warner Home Video may have found a solution to the format war between the Sony-developed Blu-ray and Toshiba's HD DVD high-definition video discs: a hybrid disc that it is calling Total HD. Today's (Thursday) New York Times reported that the one-disc-fits-all development will be announced by Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, which opens on Monday. In an interview with the Times, Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group, described the new disc as an elegant way for studios to make their content available more widely "in a way that is not conceding defeat" for whichever format they have been backing. Initially, the Times observed, the new disc would add a fourth DVD version of every available movie or TV show, but Warner is seeking to find a method for incorporating the standard DVD format on Total HD, thereby combining all formats on a single disc. Meanwhile, South Korea's LG Electronics, said on Wednesday that it plans to unveil a player capable of playing either Blu-ray or HD DVD discs at the CES. The company provided no further details other than that the players will become available during the first quarter of this year.

BLOCKBUSTER ONLINE HAS A SENSATIONAL FOURTH QUARTER

Analysts were attributing a fourth-quarter surge in the number of subscribers to Blockbuster's online rental service to its new Total Access program that encourages customers to return their DVDs to the rental company's brick-and-mortar stores, where they can receive free rental coupons for doing so. The company said Wednesday that it now has 2.2 million online customers, 500,000 of whom joined up in the fourth quarter, representing a jump of more than 29 percent in the quarter. Rival NetFlix remains the undisputed leader in online DVD rentals, with about 6 million subscribers. Blockbuster shares on Wednesday umped 6.6 percent on the news to $5.64.

20TH CENTURY FOX SAYS IT HAD A RECORD YEAR IN 2006

News Corp's Fox Filmed Entertainment unit boasted on Wednesday that it had set an industry record by grossing $3.56 billion in ticket sales last year, thanks largely to such hits as Borat: Cultural Learnings to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Ice Age: The Meltdown, and X-Men: The Last Stand. Once again demonstrating the strength of computer-animated features, the Ice Age sequel turned out to be the company's biggest earner of the year, raking in $456 million worldwide. FFE, whose largest division is the 20th Century Fox film studio, ended the year strongly as its Night at the Museum produced $127 million at the domestic box office in only the final two weeks of the year.

MAJOR DEFECTION AT TOP TALENT AGENCY

Representing a big boost to the relatively young Endeavor talent agency, Robert Newman, head of rival ICM's motion picture group, said Wednesday that he and Matt Solo, former head of ICM's television literary department, will join Endeavor as partners in the agency. Their departure comes as ICM continues to adjust to the turmoil inherent in installing a new regime, the Los Angeles Times, which, along with the New York Times reported the defection, commented today (Thursday). It was unclear which of their clients would also jump ship to Endeavor. Newman's included directors Robert Rodriguez, Baz Luhrmann, Guillermo del Toro and Mike Figgis. He expressed confidence that they would join him. Solo's had included House creator David Shore, Grey's Anatomy co-executive producer Mark Wilding, and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. Newman told the New York Times that leaving ICM after 17 years was "the hardest decision I've made in my life. ... They gave me my start in the business. I'm honored to be asked to join Endeavor, and do that with confidence that they have the greatest resources and opportunities."

Brian B.