DVD movies have been a fantastic success for the movie industry. Many movies no longer make money at the box office and fewer and fewer people are going out to the movie theaters. There are a lot a valid reasons for this, including higher ticket prices, extraordinarily high prices for snack and concession items, etc. It all boils down to the increasing convenience and cost savings associated with having a home theater, or just a DVD player connected to a television. More people today are buying DVDs and the newer HD DVDs instead of throwing money at high-priced movie theaters.
Region codes were originally developed for standard DVD movies in order to isolate the planet into different markets. The idea is to prevent someone from buying a DVD in one region and taking it to another region to either view it or bootleg (copy and distribute illegally) the movie before it is released in that region. The result is that a DVD coded for Region 1 cannot be played on a Region 2 DVD player or vice versa. This also helps to protect the copyrights and profits for the movie industry.
Most standard DVDs have always had region codes embedded in the media, but do you know that the newer high definition HD DVD movies do not use region codes? Blu-ray does use the codes, but arch-rival HD DVD does not. That may not mean very much to you if you only buy movies in your local market, but if you wish to buy movies from foreign markets, it is important to know.
These are the standard DVD regions and the geographic markets they represent:
Region 1 - USA and Canada Region 2 - Europe, Japan, South Africa, Middle East and Greenland Region 3 - South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and some parts of South East Asia Region 4 - Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and Mexico Region 5 - Russia, Eastern Europe, India and Africa Region 6 - China Region 7 - Unspecified - Reserved for special use Region 8 - Reserved for cruise ships and airlines Region 0 or All - Uncoded disks that can be played worldwide
Notice that there is a Region 0 that covers uncoded disks, which means that they can be played on any DVD player worldwide, as long as the video format itself is compatible. Unfortunately, you will not find very many popular DVD movies using region coding 0 or All. There are, however, several older movies that can be found without a region code.
Here are the Blu-ray region codes:
Region A: North America, South America, Central America, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and S.E. Asia. Region B: Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Region C: Russia, China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Central and South Asia.
The real division with high definition disks is not the region codes, but rather the competing formats. Although Blu-ray is currently winning the format war in terms of movie unit sales, it looks like both formats are likely to survive. The winning factor appears to be more closely related to the movie studios who have decided to use one format or another. A popular movie from one studio may only be available on the HD DVD format, while a hit move from a different studio may only be found on Blu-ray. For example, Universal studios only releases movies in the HD DVD format in the USA, while Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney (Sony developed Blu-ray) only release movies in the Blu-ray format. The majority of studios have decided to release movies on both formats, but business and political alliances will keep some studios loyal to a single format, at least for a while.
It is interesting to note that a recent Wall Street Journal article mentioned that some popular movies that are only available in the Blu-ray format in the USA, can be found using the HD DVD format in Europe and other foreign markets. This has to do with distribution rights and expertise in specific markets. They also noted that it is legal for an individual to buy a single copy of a movie in these markets, as long as it is for private use, but it is not legal for a company to purchase and redistribute them in another market.
With HD DVD players selling for half the cost of Blu-ray players, it may make sense to purchase the less expensive HD DVD player and purchase the movies you cannot get in the HD DVD format from an online European store that ships to the USA. Just make sure that the movie you want includes English as a language selection. Almost every disk will include English.
Many movies that currently are only available in one format in the USA will eventually be released in the other format. But if you cannot wait for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer or the latest Harry Potter move to come out in HD DVD format, these movies are already available in HD DVD in Europe.
This entire format war may become mute as soon as the prices for the new dual-format players hits a reasonable level. That would, of course, be the ideal solution.
Sheila Calabrese says
I recently bought a used Blu-ray from Amazon marketplace, that originated from a seller in New York. When I tried to play it in my Blu-ray player I got an error message that said “playback feature may not be available for this disk, ” and a direction to eject the disc. Is this due to an incompatible region code? Unfortunately, I think I am stuck with a worthless disc. I received a refund, but I am still unable to watch the movie.