With the announcement that WalMart in the US is selling low-price Blu-ray players, the temptation to import your HD kit has never been higher. However, unlike the multi-region DVD players of the past, buying a BD player from abroad will limit your choices in what films you can buy in the UK, as TechRadar explains.
Like DVD, Blu-rays have been given specific region codes depending on where in the world the disc is released. The codes are as follows:
Region Code A: Americas; East and Southeast Asia
Region Code B: Africa; Europe; Oceania; Middle East; French territories; Greenland
Region Code C: Central and South Asia; Mongolia; Russia and People's Republic of China
At the moment, no multi-region Blu-ray players have been released on the market. And for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t look like there will be, due to how difficult it is to make both BD and DVD multi-regional in the same player.
There are some sites claiming to have hacked certain makes of BD player but doing this will no doubt invalidate any warranties the player may have.
This means that if you do buy a system from, say, the States, you will also have to start importing your BD collection, sticking to predominately Region A releases.
Unlike DVD, however, it seems that some companies aren’t adhering to Blu-ray region Coding, either shunning it altogether or being sporadic in what films are being coded.
Although, for some companies, there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason why certain films are coded and others aren’t, the following is an outline of how the big film distributors are treating region codes.
Sony’s retro releases don’t seem to be region coded. In a Sony Pictures newsletter in 2007, the company said that: “All Sony Pictures European Blu-ray releases will be region ABC (all region). This means that you can watch them on all players, whether they are new releases or catalogue titles.”
Since Blu-ray dominating in the HD format war and HD-DVD falling by the wayside, this no longer seems to be the company’s stance. Recent Sony titles, including Are We Done Yet?, Ghost Rider and Click have all been region locked. Sony’s back catalogue seems to be Region free, however.
Subsidiaries of Sony – MGM and LionsGate – seem to be following a similar path, with most of the recent titles region-locked.
20th Century Fox
Fox has almost exclusively region-locked its catalogue of movies. This means that if you decide to import your player, UK editions of 28 Days Later, Fantastic Four: The Rise Of The Silver Surfer and Night At The Museum will not play on your system.
Warner has decided not to region code its Blu-ray releases. In fact, the company has made most of its recent DVDs region-free as well. One of the reasons that it has decided not to do this is because the release dates for US releases and UK releases are nearly always the same, making importing BDs almost redundant. Unless you’ve opted to buy a cheap player from abroad!
Disney and its subsidiaries – Buena Vista and Miramax – seem to region lock titles, and have done since the beginning of the format. There are some exceptions (the first two Pirates Of The Caribbean titles) but most of its catalogue remain region specific.
It may have only embraced the format recently, but it seems that Paramount has decided to go region free with its releases. Making films like Dreamgirls, the Mission: Impossible trilogy and Nacho Libre accessible to all, no matter where they are bought and what player you are using.
As pointed out above: buy an import player and you enter a BD quagmire. Though websites like DVD Times and MovieTyme are at hand to help sift through what you can and cannot play on certain machines, the fact of the matter is that until Blu-ray players become multi-region buying overseas, no matter how much of a bargain you think you might be getting, isn’t without its pitfalls.
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Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.