Let me just come out and say it: Hollywood totally and completely blew the launch of Ultra HD Blu-ray. Everybody knows this is the studios' last chance to go back to the all-profitable well of the home video disc. Laserdisc was good, but DVD was a total windfall for Hollywood. After a stupid format war that pissed off a lot of industry execs, dealers, press, and consumers, Blu-ray was also a pretty significant winner for the studios. Today there is one more layer of polish possible in UHD Blu-ray, yet its launch is about as botched as that last Space-X satellite mission.
Have you seen the titles that the major studios have released in order to inspire you to buy a new player and TV? (If not, you can view a list of all new and upcoming UHD Blu-ray titles here). Sure, it includes some newer hit films like The Martian, The Revenant, The Hunger Games series, and the new Star Trek movies--but it also shows you the lack of commitment that Hollywood studios have made to this new and last-hope yet best-performance format. The list is missing a lot of popular cult titles and nearly every one of the AFI Top 100 best movies of the past 100 years. This is just a pathetically weak effort by the studios to stick their toes in the water with a new format to see if you, the consumer, will prove to them that quality still matters. Lame.
What should the studios have done when launching UHD Blu-ray? Each one should have committed to produce 10 classic, well-made moves from the AFI 100 list for day-one launch. Secondly, each should have promised five to 10 cult favorite movies that might not be on the best-of list but are good sellers and classic movies that people want. The next two or three dozen moves from each of the studios should have been movies with excellent content designed to highlight UHD video, HDR, and advanced surround sound. Maybe throw in 10 to 20 kids movies. Essentially, they should have started with 150 to 300 excellent titles that cover all the bases. Also, prices for older movies should match that of (or be lower than) Blu-ray. It doesn't cost THAT much to remaster a legacy film to meet some of the new standards, and those classics have probably already made the studio a fortune. Isn't it worth investing a little extra love into these excellent titles to promote the hottest new AV format?
But let's leave the studios alone for a minute while we talk about the launch of the Ultra HD Blu-ray players themselves. As of today, there are three on the market: one from Samsung, one from Philips, and the latest Xbox console. We've reviewed the two dedicated players, and they are okay. The Samsung is the better of the two, but both are clunky, struggle with HDMI issues, and most importantly are MANY TIMES more expensive than today's stock Blu-ray player. What could make a UHD Blu-ray player cost hundreds more than a standard Blu-ray player? I mean, c'mon people--how stupid do you think consumers are? Other major manufacturers, like LG, have been slow to commit. Sony showed a glimpse of its first UHD Blu-ray player at CEDIA Expo 2016, but it won't be on sale until spring of 2017...over six months from now. The worse news is that Sony didn't include UHD Blu-ray support in its new juggernaut PlayStation 4. Really? What a commitment, Sony. Prepare to get owned by Oppo when it comes to market with its UDP-203 player at the end of the year.
The fact is, if you are looking for the best audio and video performance for your home theater, you absolutely need Ultra-HD Blu-ray...but that doesn't mean that the format launch has been anything short of a mess. Streaming UHD content is without question the future of home theater, but right now UHD streaming isn't as powerful, reliable, or high-performance as what you can get from a disc. Sadly, greed and stupidity have been the driving forces behind this product launch, but you still need to embrace the technology. You just do. Let's hope for some better titles. Let's hope some AV manufacturer chooses to bundle a really good demo disc with players so that consumers can effectively show off their systems. Let's hope that this ship gets righted before everything is forced to streaming. Simply put, you need UHD Blu-ray if you want to rock a top-performing home theater in a UHD world.
• How to Gauge UHD Blu-ray's Success So Far at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Examining My Love/Hate Relationship with Video Discs at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• 10 Great Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs to Begin your Collection at HomeTheaterReview.com.