By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment this afternoon announced its first range of Blu-ray movie titles will be lauched to the Australian market before the end of the month.

SPHE worldwide president, David Bishop, said the company would expand the distribution of its Blu-ray titles beyond the USA and Canada to include Australia, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, the Nordic countries, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The Australian roll-out coincides with the launch of the first Blu-ray hardware to the Australian market from Samsung Electronics, which is expected to be followed by Panasonic’s first Blu-ray player within the next week.

“We stand behind the superiority of Blu-ray as the preeminent high definition optical disc format and are committed to delivering a strong slate of Blu-ray titles to entertainment enthusiasts worldwide,” said Bishop, in a thinly-veiled reference to rival high definition optical disc format HD-DVD, which will be launched on to the Australian market by Toshiba next week.

The initial roll-out will include five movie titles: Hitch, S.W.A.T, Underworld Evolution, A Knight’s Tale and Hostel. Leading into the Christmas period releases will include a wider range of catalogue and new releases, RV and Click, the company said.

"With the growth of high-definition displays in the marketplace, the timely introduction of the Blu-ray Disc format will provide consumers with significant amounts of content, of unrivaled quality, to maximize the potential of their high definition entertainment systems,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Australia managing director, Michele Garra.

“We are extremely excited to be bringing the next generation of home entertainment to Australians.”

According to Sony, the Blu-ray format will be supported by seven of the eight major Hollywood movie studios, which will also release titles in the coming months.