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Buena Vista Halts EZ-D Test

11 Feb, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has abruptly dropped its experiment in disposable EZ-D discs, which it had tested for more than a year in several U.S. markets, according to a source familiar with the deal.

The discs, which initially set off a furor in the industry because they were widely viewed as an attack on traditional rentals, had been offered at grocery and convenience stores in Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; Bloomington/Peoria, Ill.; Phoenix; Denver; and throughout Florida. The Papa John's pizza chain also offered the titles for sale with pizzas in-store or by delivery in test markets.

A Buena Vista spokesman declined comment, but the EZ-D Web page on Disney's Go.com lists only titles that had been in the market since before Flexplay Technologies, the company with the patents for the disc technology, was sold to the Convex Group. The site's list of locations where they were available also has disappeared.

Spokespersons for Convex Group and Flexplay did not return calls by press time. A spokesperson for Musicland declined to discuss how the discs did at retail or whether the chain would consider carrying the format in the future. Spokespersons for 7-Eleven did not return calls by press time.

“I think we only had them for a very limited time. It was a limited test,” said a spokesperson for Papa John's.

Despite the end of the EZ-D test, DVD seems to be a good fit for Papa John's, which has a full list of mostly secondary titles on DVD that it offers free with a large pizza at menu price. (Titles in that promotion include Drop Dead Fred, Frosty Returns and Weekend at Bernie's.)

Flexplay moved to Los Angeles from New York about the same time it was bought by the Convex Group — which also owns the technology for Lidrock CD-ROM distribution via drink cup lids and the “How Stuff Works” franchise.

In November, the company released its first film, Noel, after picking up the movie rights at the Toronto Film Festival. But the decision to release the title simultaneously in theaters, on cable television and on the expiring discs challenged studio tradition and rankled the establishment, sources said.

Convex representatives have been haunting film festivals, including Sundance, trolling for movies the company can release on the Flexplay format, sources said.

A spokeswoman for Amazon.com, which had an exclusive on Noel, said Amazon is happy with the results.

“We're pleased overall with Noel's sales,” she said. “Demand was highest during the holiday season, likely due in large part to the film's holiday theme. We look forward to exploring similar opportunities in the future.”

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