Sony Pictures on Thursday disclosed prices for movies on its new Blu-ray DVD format, setting a target range seen as a 15-to-20 percent premium to the current DVD standard.

Blu-ray is locked in a multibillion-dollar standards war against a rival DVD format known as HD DVD. Analysts see the new pricing as an aggressive move by the studio owned by Sony Corp.(SNE).

Some 18 catalog titles from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment will include "Hitch," "The Fifth Element" and "Species," and will carry a wholesale price of $17.95 each, the company said.

Newer titles like "Underworld: Evolution," scheduled for early summer release, will have a wholesale price of $23.45, Ben Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said in a statement.

The $23.45 price represents a 15-to-20 percent increase over current new-release DVDs, said Richard Doherty, an analyst with Envisioneering.

While price hikes are common when introducing new standards, analysts said Sony's listed wholesale prices for Blu-ray were lower than expected.

Wholesale prices are not a guarantee of lower consumer price tags, but they almost always are representative of what consumers will pay, analysts said.

"The prices indicate that Sony is being very aggressive about helping Blu-ray be attractive in price to replace DVD sooner than we thought," said Doherty.

"It's a very positive step. When someone goes to all this trouble with a next generation format, some would have expected it to be double the price. It's very aggressive," he said.

Failure of the Blu-ray and HD DVD camps to reach a unified standard has set the stage for a formats war akin to the VHS vs. Betamax battle of the 1980s. Each side hopes to reignite the sagging $24 billion home video market with new players and discs that offer greater capacity and interactive features.

Other film studios like Time Warner Inc's (TWX) Warner Brothers declined comment, while General Electric Co's (GE) Universal was unavailable and a spokeswoman for Viacom Inc's (VIA) Paramount Studios said the studio was still working out pricing with retailers.

The HD DVD consortium, championed by Toshiba Corp, has long been viewed as the lower priced contender.

In keeping with that position, Toshiba in January said it would offer HD DVD players in March, priced at $799 and $499, which are lower than a $999 Blu-ray player model currently under development by Samsung Corp. — a member of the Sony-led Blu-ray camp.

HD DVD plans to start rolling out hardware and titles by March and members of the Blu-ray consortium have said they will start shipping players by as early as May.

"The titles should be available around the same time as the hardware," said Andy Parsons, a spokesman for Blu-ray.

Sony has said it will deliver 4 titles per month, ramping it to 10 titles per month by the fourth quarter 2006.

"Our intent is to create a critical mass of movies and displays at retail that will showcase the escalating availability and abundance of both Blu-ray Disc software and hardware in the marketplace," said Feingold.