Blockbuster busts out DVDs early

'Knight and Day' and 'Inception' to hit kiosks same day as stores

With its rivals, Netflix and Redbox, now having to wait nearly a month before they can start offering new movies, Blockbuster is stepping up the competition by testing “Knight and Day” and “Inception” DVD rentals in its kiosks the same day they hit store shelves.

The pics will be available to rent for $3 for the first day through 900 Blockbuster Express kiosks in San Francisco, Phoenix, Miami and Atlanta. Rental fees are $1 on subsequent nights.

Knight and Day” is being tested in conjunction with Fox, but Warner Bros. is not officially supplying discs of its “Inception” to Blockbuster. NCR is buying those discs directly from local retailers and stocking the kiosks itself. Warners does not distribute films to the kiosk operator, partly because it feels the $1-a-day rental fee hurts DVD sales.

ATM maker NCR operates the kiosks and licenses the Blockbuster moniker from the vidstore chain.

In November, Fox Home Entertainment paired up with NCR on a plan to conduct the day-and-date test with “Knight and Day” (Daily Variety, Nov. 16). It plans to continue the tests with “The A-Team” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” but the rest of its films fall under the 28-day delay other studios have inked with kiosk or digital rental firms.

Either way, the rental program will determine whether consumers are willing to pay more than the typical $1-a-day rental fee that has made such kiosks a hit during the recession.

Kiosk operators have long discussed plans to start charging more for Blu-ray discs, digital downloads or newer titles. And it’s no surprise that Blockbuster is the first to make the move, given the company’s push to develop revenue streams as it tries to emerge from a bankruptcy reorg.

Blockbuster has been keen to capitalize on its existing relationship with the studios; it’s the only movie rental service that can offer day-and-date rentals from most majors. It recently launched an ad campaign that touts that deal via the tagline “Less Waiting. More Watching.”

The day-and-date tests could expand to allow digital downloads through kiosks.

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