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Film execs betting on heavy sales of Blu-ray products

LOS ANGELES – Movie studio executives on Friday presented the best-case scenario for a winter holiday surge in the purchase of high-definition Blu-ray players as their best hope to keep the U.S. home video market’s decline from accelerating past 3 percent to 4 percent this year.

The executives hosted by The Digital Entertainment Group, a consortium of movie studios and electronics manufacturers, forecast that 10.5 million households would be able to play Blu-ray videos by the end of the year, with about 2.5 million stand-alone players and 8 million PlayStation 3 game consoles.

The estimate is much lower than the 14.4 million households that Adams Media Research said in June would be playing Blu-rays by the end of the year. But if it comes true, about 1 million more stand-alone players and 2.3 million more PS3s must be sold through the holidays.

Prices have dropped in recent months, and Blu-ray players can be found online for less than $200, encouraging hope for adoption of the format.

“The only dark cloud is the economy,” David Bishop, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, told a panel. He said the consumer products side of Sony Corp. is “showing no slowdown in the adoption of the PlayStation 3.”

There are 5.7 million PS3s installed in the United States, and Sony and expects to sell 4 million to 5 million more by March.

“We remain pretty confident that we’ll meet our targets for the fiscal year,” said Julie Han, spokeswoman for Sony Computer Entertainment America.

The “early adopters” of video technology are especially important because they tend to buy more movies than consumers who join a trend later.

“These are the heavy buyers, the heavy collectors,” said Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Executives agreed it is still the early days of Blu-ray because it was only February when the high-definition format beat out Toshiba Corp.-backed HD DVD. Last week, the consortium kicked off a $25 million TV ad campaign to push Blu-ray, acknowledging in part that half the people it polled in a recent survey didn’t know the format war was over.

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