SCHNUCK SETTING THE STAGE TO ADD MORE DVD RENTAL SITES

ST. LOUIS -- Schnuck Markets here, which pioneered the rental of digital videodisc hardware and software earlier this year, plans to expand the number of DVD rental locations, said Denis Oldani, director of video.The chain has been renting DVD since the spring, when it first became available, in 36 of its 78 rental locations, according to the company's web site, where the DVD program is listed along

ST. LOUIS -- Schnuck Markets here, which pioneered the rental of digital videodisc hardware and software earlier this year, plans to expand the number of DVD rental locations, said Denis Oldani, director of video.

The chain has been renting DVD since the spring, when it first became available, in 36 of its 78 rental locations, according to the company's web site, where the DVD program is listed along with other video department offerings. Besides VHS movies, these rental products include laserdiscs, CD-ROMs, audio books and a full spectrum of video game software.

"We are always interested in new technology and additional revenue-generating formats, and DVD is one of them," said Oldani. Although the format is still very new, consumer response has been good enough that Schnuck intends to extend DVD to other stores where it rents videos, he said. He would not reveal any specific information.

"We see DVD as part of the future of home video and not as a flash in the pan. The penetration of hardware and customer demand will determine whether all stores will eventually carry DVD," he said.

With more major studios, like Universal Studios Home Video, Universal City, Calif., getting behind the format, and with supporters such as Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif., rolling out software nationally, more supermarkets are expected to start renting DVDs in the coming months. For example, some ShopRite stores of Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., are expected to start renting DVDs by the middle of this month, said industry sources.

Schnuck's DVD software inventory is at more than 100 titles and growing. Among the current offerings are "Jerry Maguire," "Rosewood" and "Jumanji." August DVD releases will include "Killer: A Journal of Murder," "Freeway," "Dirty Dancing," "Terminator 2," "Red Heat," "The Doors," "Basic Instinct" and "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," according to the web site.

Schnuck rents DVD software for $3 per title for three days and two nights. Players rent for $15 for the same period. The retailer will special order movies on DVD for customers to purchase, said Oldani.

"Schnuck is totally committed to the video category and they've always been a leader in breaking new product," said Bill Bryant, vice president of sales, grocery and drug at Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn.

DVD, he said, is a "complement and supplement" to the home video industry and won't replace consumer demand for VHS anytime soon. DVD consumers are different from the average VCR customer, he said.

DVD looks like a compact disc but is double-layered, allowing it to store seven times more information than standard CDs. Bryant said DVD offers better clarity and sound than a standard VHS tape and allows a viewer to hear a movie in more than one language, among other advantages.