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Mouse homevid expands throw-away DVD testing

Disc's price point to be dropped to $5.99

Eight months after introducing the industry’s first batch of disposable DVDs in four cities, Buena Vista Home Video is expanding its EZ-D test to Florida and three additional cities with a more sharply defined distribution strategy and significant new support from major convenience chain 7-Eleven and Papa John’s restaurant franchises.

The price point will also be dropped from $6.99 to $5.99 for the limited-play DVDs on which Disney has been offering dozens of titles, including recent hits such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Freaky Friday.” The discs, which have no bonus features, can be played an unlimited number of times for 48 hours once the disc is removed from the packaging.

Beginning in April, Disney will introduce the limited-play discs in Phoenix, San Antonio, Denver and throughout Florida. The discs are currently being sold in Kansas City, Mo.; Charleston, S.C.; Austin, Texas; and Bloomington/Peoria, Ill.

Papa John’s and 7-Eleven will place Disney EZ-Ds in all their outlets in the new markets. With the expansion the studio expects to add about 1,500 storefronts across the markets, bringing the total number of retail locations selling the discs to 1,900.

In addition, Papa John’s will begin promoting its pizza-and-a-movie offer through television ads in the four markets, while 7-Eleven will devote a “substantial amount” of in-store display space and specially designed point-of-purchase promotional materials to the test, Disney officials said.

“Convenience is what this product is all about, and obviously those two channels are built around convenience,” said Lori MacPherson, VP of marketing for Disney.

Many believe lowering the price point to something closer to that of a typical DVD rental is key to the success of this new product, which led to dropping the price for the next phase of the test.

“The increased volume of discs required for the new markets has resulted in more favorable economies of scale that allow us to lower the price,” said Alan Blaustein, CEO of Flexplay, which markets the technology underlying the self-destructing discs.

The Flexplay system relies on a special chemical process to render the discs unreadable after a fixed period of time. The process begins as soon as the discs are removed from their vacuum-sealed packaging and exposed to air.

In the case of Disney’s EZ-Ds, the play window is set at 48 hours. The studio hopes the discs will appeal to movie renters who will be more inclined to pick up a disc if it is available at a retail location they are patronizing for other purposes and who don’t like being forced to return discs to a store under the threat of a late fee.

Although the studio has not provided a timetable for a national rollout of its EZ-D line, MacPherson said Disney expects to be ready to evaluate the test again in three to four months.

When the test was first announced, concerns were raised about the impact on the environment of millions of disposable plastic discs. But Disney already had a recycling program in place as they launched the initial test through GreenDisk, an electronic waste recycling company, along with local environmental organizations.

Flexplay recently set up an office in Los Angeles and is trying to encourage other studios to join Disney in supporting the product.

(Paul Sweeting is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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