Launch of Divx discs delayed

Release now expected June 8

The launch of Divx, the alternate digital videodisc rental format backed by the Circuit City electronic retail chain, has been delayed approximately a week, until June 8, due to quality-control problems with several of the movie titles, according to sources within the format’s maker, Digital Video Express.

“We’re not going to have the level of software that we had hoped, and for that reason we made the decision to wait an extra week,” said the Divx spokesman. “We did not anticipate that our quality-control requirements would … delay the launch, but they have.”

Problems involved the playback of the discs and other unspecified quality-control issues, said Divx sources.

Manufacture of the Divx-enabled DVD players — which would also play ordinary DVDs — has not been delayed, according to Divx.

The rescheduled June 8 release will still be restricted to the test markets of Richmond, Va., and San Francisco, as originally planned. Divx hopes to field approximately 25 movie titles in its digital disc format by the start date, with the number increasing to at least 50 by the end of June and with steady growth thereafter.

The Divx players, and the discs, will be available in Circuit City and Good Guys stores.

National release of the Divx players and titles is planned for late summer or early fall, said a Divx spokesman. Under the Divx scheme, consumers would purchase a film title for $4.49. Once they start playing the disc, they’d have 48 hours to play the title. After the initial two-day period, consumers would have to pay an additional fee to play the disc again. The standard DVD format has no playback restrictions, but the discs are more expensive.

The Divx format is also backed by the Century City law firm of Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca & Fischer.

Six Hollywood studios — Disney, Fox, Dreamworks, Paramount, Universal and MGM — have announced their intention to release Divx titles.