BUEHLER GIVES DVD RENTALS A SCREEN TEST IN TWO STORES

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Buehler Food Markets here began testing DVD rentals in two stores last month.A kiosk from PolyGram Video, New York, was featured outside the main entrance of a Medina, Ohio, store. It included a demonstration unit, three DVD hardware players for rent, and 40 to 50 rental units, SN found while conducting store visits. The kiosk apparently was generating turns. On the late Monday afternoon

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Buehler Food Markets here began testing DVD rentals in two stores last month.

A kiosk from PolyGram Video, New York, was featured outside the main entrance of a Medina, Ohio, store. It included a demonstration unit, three DVD hardware players for rent, and 40 to 50 rental units, SN found while conducting store visits. The kiosk apparently was generating turns. On the late Monday afternoon that SN visited the store, several rental pieces were out. The store also offered DVD products for sale.

Buehler executives did not respond to calls for comment. The other store in the test is in Wooster, Ohio, store personnel told SN over the phone. A third video department in Coshocton, Ohio, was being expanded and remodeled in mid-December and might get the DVD program as well, store personnel said.

DVD movies were renting for $2.99 a day, or $15.97 for the hardware and two discs. Among the titles in the rental program were new releases like "Contact" and "George of the Jungle," and older movies such as "Fargo," "Twister," "Michael" and "In the Line of Fire."

Signage on the freestanding grid display rack read, "DVD: The Ultimate Experience." The display unit was playing a demonstration program, "The DVD Experience."

Many retailers are now testing DVD for rental and sale, however sales are reportedly lackluster nationwide. Among the supermarket chains now involved are Schnuck Markets, St. Louis; Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh; Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis; Reasor's, Tahlequah, Okla.; and Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz.

Some are hoping the holiday selling season spurs interest in the new format, while others speculated that uncertainty over the Divx limited play format of DVD might be holding consumers back. However, one retailer, who asked not to be identified, said most consumers do not understand DVD sufficiently at this stage to know that Divx is even an issue.

People will be able to play regular DVD software on Divx-equipped machines, but not Divx on DVD-only players. Divx is expected to add $100 to the cost of each hardware unit when it is introduced next spring. Consumers will be able to buy Divx movies for $5, and then have two days from the time they first play them to finish. Additional time may be purchased through a modem hook-up. Divx has the support of several large studios because of its superior copy protection and is backed by electronics retailer Circuit City, Richmond, Va.