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HD-DVD Gets Boost from Paramount, DreamWorks

Movie studios Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG decided to release high-definition movies exclusively in the HD-DVD optical-disk format backed by Toshiba and Microsoft, giving HD-DVD a boost in its ongoing format war with Sony's Blu-ray format.

The agreement covers all movies distributed by Viacom's Paramount Home Entertainment, including Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Animation SKG, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films.

The first HD-DVD title will be hit comedy Blades of Glory, followed by Transformers and Shrek the Third.

Paramount's decision to back HD-DVD exclusively is a major win for that format's camp, both because Paramount had previously said it would support both formats and because Blu-ray seemed to be gaining momentum in the format war.

In June, Blu-ray scored a major win when rental giant Blockbuster said it would only offer new titles in Blu-ray going forward. Blu-ray also garnered the support of most major studios; NBC Universal had previously been the only studio to back HD-DVD exclusively, based mainly on its backward-compatibility with standard-definition DVD.

Both Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg cited HD-DVD's affordability -- players are currently available for $300, compared with Blu-ray's $500 -- as a factor in their decision.

"We decided to release Shrek the Third and other DreamWorks Animation titles exclusively on HD-DVD because we believe it is the best format to bring high-quality home entertainment to a key segment of our audience -- families," said Katzenberg in a statement. "We believe the combination of this year's low-priced HD-DVD players and the commitment to release a significant number of hit titles in the fall makes HD-DVD the best way to view movies at home."