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Customizing Redbox

31 Mar, 2010 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I went to the local Albertson's supermarket the other night and discovered that the Redbox kiosk had been banished to the outside. It used to be inside the store, right next to the exit; now, it's outside, by the front door.

"What's up with that?" I asked a clerk. He explained that the kiosk had been attracting such long lines that they were interfering with store traffic, with harried shoppers, their carts full of groceries, colliding with movie fans waiting for their turn to slip a dollar into the machine and leave with the evening's entertainment.

There's no question that the Redbox model is successful. And yet while I firmly believe in the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," I wonder when the folks at Redbox will incorporate a little innovation into the mix. To quote another old saying, "Change or die."

One idea I had was to roll out kiosks with customizable inventories to movie theaters. That way, say, when New Moon was playing on the big screen, the theater owner could install a kiosk in the lobby filled with nothing but the first Twilight movie, maybe evenly split between rental copies and discs available for sale. After a week or two, change the inventory completely to complement whatever happens to be hot that week in the theater.

Think of the possibilities: When a new Johnny Depp movie opens, there's a kiosk with his entire catalog on disc. Or if an art-house theater is having a Hitchcock festival, offer fans the chance to buy the very same films as they leave the theater, enthralled all over again by the shower scene in Psycho or the lighting in North by Northwest.

The possibilities don't end there. A Redbox kiosk filled with sports movies at The Sports Authority. A kiosk of film noir movies at a trendy new 1940s-style nightclub or steakhouse. A kiosk with classic beach movies on the Venice Beach boardwalk; a kiosk with Breakfast at Tiffany's, Gangs of New York and other New York films at Grand Central Station or Kennedy International.

The studios could nudge such concepts along by not viewing Redbox as a mortal enemy, but, rather, as an opportunity. So what if Hollywood hates the very idea of rentals? Traditional vending machines rent things, so why can't Redbox kiosks?

There's an opportunity out here, a very big opportunity. When's someone going to jump?

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