Ultra HD Blu-ray is finally going to be available to consumers early next year, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will be at the forefront of that development with six titles announced this week. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Hancock, Salt, Chappie, Pineapple Express, and The Smurfs 2 will be followed by other movies and TV shows, including new and catalog titles restored from the original elements.
Many titles will include immersive soundtracks, though Sony isn't announcing specifics about that yet. Likewise, many titles will include high dynamic-range (HDR) imagery, but again, the press release reveals nothing about which HDR system will be used. When I asked my contact at Sony about this, he said, "The HDR will use an open, non-proprietary spec," which probably means the SMPTE/HDR10 standard.
The packaging was designed by the Digital Entertainment Group in collaboration with many major studios, including Anchor Bay Entertainment, HBO Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The carbonized black color and metallic-silver lettering and logo are intended to help differentiate Ultra HD Blu-rays from current Blu-ray titles, which are packaged in a blue case. Also, new packaging can house a single disc or a combo pack—for example, separate Ultra HD and HD Blu-ray discs.
I'm disappointed with the initial titles—other than The Amazing Spider-Man 2, they are not what I'd call blockbusters with wide appeal. The Smurfs 2? C'mon Sony, you can do better than that! The press release mentions many other new and classic titles in Sony's library of 4K content, including Fury, Captain Phillips, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Men In Black, Ghostbusters, The Fifth Element, Bad Boys, The Da Vinci Code, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Leon: The Professional, Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Guns of Navarone, Taxi Driver, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and many others. Why isn't the company starting with some of these?
Even though they aren't what I would have chosen, I'm still looking forward to seeing the first six Sony Ultra HD Blu-ray titles on a 4K/UHD display with HDR and immersive sound. They might not be the best movies ever made, but they will point the way to a far better home-theater experience than we've had up to now, and better content is sure to follow.