Nine titles expected for worldwide release.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Thursday (Aug. 31) is expected to reveal an ambitious slate of Blu-ray Disc titles, becoming the last of the five big studios supporting the next-generation optical disc format to unveil specific releases, and release dates.

The nine titles will be released worldwide, not just in North America. Topping the list: "Ice Age: The Meltdown," which will be released the same day as the standard DVD, Nov. 21 in the United States and Canada and the week of Nov. 13 in Australia and select European countries.


Also on the list: the director's cut of Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven," due Nov. 14 in North America, Australia and Europe and June 10 in Japan. The release will be one of the industry's first dual-layer BDs, to accommodate the nearly four-hour running time.

"I reviewed (the film) on Blu-ray Disc and I was astounded," Scott said. "It was like looking through a window of clarity. It was the most impressive thing I've ever seen."

Coming to stores on the same day are the seven other Fox titles: "Behind Enemy Lines," "Fantastic Four," "Kiss of the Dragon," "The Omen (666)," "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," "Speed" and "The Transporter."

In the United States all titles will list for $39.98, about $10 more than initial BD releases by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Warner Home Video and Lionsgate. Unlike most of the early Blu-ray releases from other studios, a number of Fox titles take full advantage of the format's high-definition technology and Java-based interactivity, with AVC (MPEG-4 compression) and HD "Lossless" Audio.

Fox titles with AVC are "Behind Enemy Lines," "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "Speed."

Only one other studio, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, is releasing BD titles with the advanced codec: "Eight Below" and "Great Raid," both due Sept. 19.

Fox also is expected to announce today the release of four BD titles from MGM, which it is now distributing. "Usual Suspects" and "Windtalkers" are due Nov. 28, followed on Dec. 5 by "Rocky" and "Bulletproof Monk."

The timing of the Fox and MGM releases coincides with the expected release of the Sony PlayStation 3 video game console, which Blu-ray backers believe will give the fledgling format the momentum to soar past rival HD DVD.

"Blu-ray is the superior high definition format and come this holiday season it will be evident that it is really the only choice for consumers who want to enjoy pre-recorded high-definition content at home. It'll be that simple," Dunn said. "It fully delivers on the promise of a next-generation format. Blu-ray represents the bright future of the $50 billion global home entertainment industry and the inevitable successor to the incredibly popular DVD."

Five of the six major studios -- all but Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which is only supporting the HD DVD format -- have now announced titles and release dates for BD, as has Lionsgate.

HD DVD, aside from Universal, is being supported by Paramount Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video, both of which also are supporting BD.

Also on the next-gen front, Warner has announced that on Sept. 26 it will release 10 titles in the two high-def disc formats, the largest single-day release slate fielded by any studio.

"Tim Burton's Corpse Bride," "Swordfish," "Space Cowboys," "Lethal Weapon 2," "The Fugitive" and "House of Wax" will be issued on BD, while "The Dirty Dozen," "Grand Prix," "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "The Adventures of Robin Hood" are headed for HD DVD. All titles will retail for $28.99.