Film rental firm Blockbuster said that it will rent high-definition DVDs in the Blu-ray format only at 1,450 of its US stores, starting by mid-July.
The announcement is viewed as a blow for the rival Toshiba-backed HD DVD format. However, Blockbuster
will continue to offer both Blu-ray and HD DVD titles through its online rental service, and will continue to offer both formats at its initial 250 stores that currently carry both high-definition formats.
"We intend to meet the demands of our customers and based on the trends we're seeing, we're expanding our Blu-ray inventory to ensure our stores reflect the right level of products," said Matthew Smith, SVP Merchandising for Blockbuster. "While it is still too early to say which high-definition format will become the industry standard, we will continue to closely monitor customer rental patterns both at our stores and online, so we can adjust our inventory mix accordingly," he added.
Blockbuster said that Blu-ray rentals significantly outpacing HD DVD rentals at its stores.
With the expansion in July, the 1,700 stores will be carrying more than 170 titles in Blu-ray and will continue to add titles in the format as they are released from the studios.
The North American HD DVD Promotional Group said Blockbuster's move was short sighted, and had been prompted by the success of films released exclusively in the Blu-ray format in early 2007 such as Casino Royale and Spider Man.
"I think trying to make a format decision using such a short time period is really not measuring what the consumer is saying," said Ken Graffeo, co-president of the group, according to BBC.
Currently, all major studios except one are releasing films in Blu-ray, with several, including The Walt Disney, releasing exclusively in Blu-ray. Only Universal Studios exclusively supports HD DVD.
Warner Bros and Paramount Pictures release films in both formats.
In the hardware arena, Toshiba is selling its player for $299 with a rebate, down from $499 when it first went on sale. On the other hand, Sony recently slashed the price of its player by more than half to $499. The player retailed for $1,000 when it first was introduced.