The Blu-ray Disc high-definition optical disc format will launch in the US on May 23 when the first player and movies ship, backers of the format said Monday.

Samsung will be first out of the gate with a Blu-ray Disc player. Its BD-P1000, which was first shown at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month. The device will be available from May 23 at Best Buy, Circuit City and specialist retailers, the company said.

No price has been announced. At CES, Samsung said it plans to sell the machine for around $1,000, but the original launch date was slated for April.

Copy protection deals deliver delay

The launch of players for Blu-ray Disc and the competing HD-DVD format have been delayed by protracted talks regarding the content protection system that is common to both formats. While discussions have yet to be completed, an interim agreement was finalised last week that allows companies to begin production of hardware.

Following the Samsung launch, similar machines from Sony and Pioneer will debut, and Sony will also begin selling a Vaio PC with a Blu-ray Disc drive, the companies said. No detailed launch plans were disclosed.

Movie titles ship too

Software for the new player will be released on May 23 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Lionsgate Films.

The first Sony titles to be released will be: '50 First Dates', 'The Fifth Element', 'Hitch', 'House of Flying Daggers', 'A Knight's Tale', 'The Last Waltz' (MGM), 'Resident Evil Apocalypse', and 'XXX'. They will be followed on June 13 by an additional titles including: 'Kung Fu Hustle', 'Legends of the Fall', 'Robocop', 'Stealth', 'Species', 'SWAT', and 'Terminator'.

Lionsgate's May 23 releases will be: 'Crash', 'Lord of War', 'The Punisher', 'Saw', and 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day'. The first two titles will cost $40 and the latter 3 will cost $30, it said in a statement. An additional five titles will be launched in June and July: 'Reservoir Dogs', 'Total Recall', 'Stargate', Frank Herbert's 'Dune', and 'The Devil's Reject'.

The first player for the HD-DVD format is due to be launched by Toshiba in March in the US.