Disney’s disposables tempt lapsed renters

Co. looks to get EZ-D's into high-volume retail outlets

Fill ‘er up and give me “The Hot Chick.”

If that sounds like a good Saturday night, then Disney has an offer for you.

Starting last month, consumers in Kansas City, Mo., and Charleston, S.C., and several other markets could stop by a Phillips 66 station for a tank of gas, and for an extra $6 or $7, could pick up a copy of seven Disney titles on DVD including “Frida,” “Signs,” “Equilibrium,” “Heaven,” “25th Hour” or “Rabbit-Proof Fence.”

By mid-October, a second batch should be available. Oh, the catch is that the discs self-destruct 48 hours after you open them.

Seeking to attract consumers who’ve stopped renting, Disney has teamed with Gotham-based Flexplay Technologies to test low-priced disposable EZ-Ds. Resembling standard DVDs, the vacuum-packed discs have a chemical substrate that renders them unplayable within a fixed period after being exposed to air.

Flexplay has already pitched EZ-D to the MPAA as an Oscar screener format that would be safe from “pass-along” piracy. But Disney hopes it’ll appeal to consumers who don’t want to pay $15 to $20 for a DVD they might watch once, but hate the inconvenience of returning rented discs.

Key to the strategy is to get the discs into high-volume retail outlets that still attract people who no longer go to Blockbuster.

The studio has lined up an eclectic mix of distrib channels in its four test markets, including gas stations, drugstores, supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as a few more traditional outlets like Musicland subsidiary Suncoast Motion Picture Co. and the FYE music and video chain owned by Trans World Entertainment.

The studio is walking a fine line, pursuing lapsed renters without undercutting a booming business in full-priced DVD sales. In order to protect that market, Disney says titles will debut on EZ-D six weeks after their sell-through bow. By then, however, interest in most titles has cooled, making it unclear how much appeal the discs will have.

Still, the discs have drawn keen interest from other studios, some of whom may be tempted to jump in if Disney succeeds.

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