Last fall, Sony established the Sony Pictures Blu-ray Club, a customer loyalty rewards program that awards points for discounts and freebies on Sony products, plus chances to win cash and prizes. The program allows Sony to keep connected with its best video customers
This year, the company's Blu-ray release of Kramer vs. Kramer let viewers connect to Sony's BD-Live Web site to see a live Q&A with the film's director, Robert Benton, and co-star Justin Henry, held following a live screening in Los Angeles. And the recently released The Da Vinci Code: Extended Cut includes "CineChat," an in-movie chat feature that debuted with Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. The feature can be used to set up online viewing parties around specific titles. The title also used BD-Live to offer $10 in "e-Movie Cash" that could be redeemed for a ticket to see the next movie in the series, Angels & Demons, in theaters.
Late last year, Universal earned fanboy props by holding the industry's first live BD-Live chat, with Hellboy II: The Golden Army director Guillermo Del Toro. More recent releases include The Incredible Hulk, which let friends chat while watching the movie and share favorite clips via "My Scenes Sharing," and Mamma Mia!, where viewers can share scenes, get exclusive bonus content, and even create accompanying video, audio, or text tracks. Similarly, Wanted and Deathrace let viewers create their own play-by-play movie commentary and share it with friends. In the latter, would-be sportscasters can show their play-by-play skills in a pivotal race, then post the commentaries to the site. Director Paul W.S. Anderson picked his favorites, earning winners prizes such as a 52-inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV or a PS3 game system.
Warner Home Video
Thanks to the blockbuster success of the Blu-ray Disc release of The Dark Knight-3 million units and counting-Warner has as much experience engaging fans by way of BD-Live as any studio. In April, the company launched its WB Insider Rewards Blu-ray loyalty program, which lets viewers access exclusive online content, see sneak peeks of upcoming films, and create and manage a wish list of upcoming Blu-ray releases.
The Dark Knight tapped BD-Live for an exclusive live "community screening" with director Christopher Nolan, who personally answered more than 270 of the 34,000 questions that were submitted. Other BD-Live features include My Web Commentary, where fans can use a webcam to record commentary over the film, then share the video with friends or post it to the BD-Live community at large. In Gran Torino, BD-Live provides access to a Jamie Cullum music video performance of the title song, written by director Clint Eastwood.
June is shaping up to be a great month for music fans, with Warner releasing both the three-disc Woodstock: The Director's Cut, 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition and Neil Young's 10-disc retrospective on Blu-ray. Woodstock will have a BD-Live-enabled media center offering downloadable content, live community screenings, and Web commentary. One of the more ambitious BD-Live projects is Young's Archives Vol. 1 (1963-1972), which hits June 2 with an interactive timeline feature. In a note on Young's Web site, he wrote that when you pop in a disc, you'll get a message from him asking if you want to get new material, which could range from new photos or songs discovered after the discs' release to reviews or even a new online video of a song recorded after you've bought the collection.
Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment
Disney was one of the first companies to offer in-movie chats, video e-mail, and celebrity-hosted live events. Its BD-Live efforts to date have been primarily focused on key "tentpole" titles, with all BD-Live titles including movie mail, movie chat, movie rewards, and games. Its first BD-Live release, Sleeping Beauty, had a real-time virtual castle whose weather reflected the local conditions and time of day of the viewer. Its follow-up, Tinker Bell, connected viewers to a virtual fairy world developed by Disney Online, and included a game where players had to collect parts to assemble a music box that played songs once all the pieces were assembled.
Other BD-Live releases included Wall•E, which had a music challenge with scores tallied and posted online; Prince Caspian, which offered 14 exclusive downloads to Disney BD-Live Network members; and High School Musical 3, which included a virtual yearbook ("My Pages") that let viewers upload photos and add profiles to an East High School yearbook that appeared onscreen. The animated adventure Bolt included two movie-challenge games, "Bolt Meets Mittens" and "Bolt the Action Hero." Disney says it will offer new types of BD-Live interactivity later this fall and winter.
Many believe 2009 will be a make-or-break year for BD-Live acceptance. If so, as big Blu-ray fans, we're hoping the studios will step up to the plate later this year with some game-changing BD-Live interactivity. After all, any prospect has only a limited time in which to make an impact.
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