May 25, 2004

DVD rentals

Robotic DVD Machines at Chicagoland Jewel-Oscos

Published on 6/3/2003

GETAMOVIE's touch-screen robotic machine, which costs $50,000.
Photo courtesy of GETAMOVIE

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. � Four Jewel-Osco grocery stores across Chicagoland now have a new perk: the ability to circumvent video stores without human intervention.

Schaumburg, Ill.-based GETAMOVIE, formerly coined CineQuest when ePrairie profiled the prototypical company late last year, has placed its $50,000 proprietary robotic vending machines at west suburban grocery stores as an allure to convenience shoppers who don�t want to make a separate trip to the video store.

"We want to minimize people having to go from store to store to get everything they need," said Mike DeLazzer, president and co-founder of GETAMOVIE. "GETAMOVIE saves time and fulfills the need for instant gratification. Almost any new-release movie you can think of that's in stock you can rent right this second."

Originally equipped with traditional screens and steel buttons, the company�s latest machines are powered by touch screens. GETAMOVIE rental machines are similar to ATMs in that they are designed to provide a fast and automated way to rent DVD movies and games. Each machine allows movie and video game lovers to search and select favorite movies and games by title, director, actor and category.

The machines are connected to the Internet via DSL so consumers can browse machine inventories (roughly 250 titles) and reserve them at before heading to a store. DeLazzer says his is the first DVD rental system that allows consumers to ensure real-time movie and game availability at retail locations in advance.

Though DeLazzer and co-founder Franz Kuehnrich toyed with the notion of one-day DVDs for 99 cents some months ago, DeLazzer says there�s no need to undercut rivals so dramatically. Rather, he says, GETAMOVIE prevents the accrual of massive late fees, which in the past has rung up $800 million in profits annually for Blockbuster Video.

�Hey, things happen. You�re not always able to return a movie exactly on time and you shouldn�t be penalized that much. I don�t know any other service in the world that would make you pay the same fee if you�re only a couple hours late,� DeLazzer said. �This is entertainment. We want people to have a good time and come back with smiles on their faces. The last thing we want to do is kill the smile due to some arcane late-fee policy.�

GETAMOVIE co-founder Mike DeLazzer (left) beside co-founder Franz Kuehnrich.
Photo courtesy of GETAMOVIE

GETAMOVIE game and DVD rentals start at $3 for 24 hours. A second day costs 50 cents more. Each day thereafter costs an additional 99 cents. Some 90 percent of the discs are movies. Consumers can pay by credit card or credit card-linked membership cards, which come charged with $5 and can be recharged at any time.

Returns are due back to the machines from which they were rented. DeLazzer says his machines are equipped for leeway so you�re not necessarily penalized if you�re an hour late. He says the machines typically give you four or so hours before charging you an additional day.

Each machine hold 1,500 titles. Because space is always an issue at a grocery store, DeLazzer says his company is working on a new model that would hold the same amount of discs while taking up half the physical space. DeLazzer declined to name the New York company that is producing the machines to GETAMOVIE�s specifications.

As far as the earlier notion of burning DVDs anew at the machines, DeLazzer says today's technology still isn�t at the point of on-the-spot burning practicality. Consumers won�t want to wait through a 30-minute ordeal, he says. He adds that disposable DVDs would come sooner than burnable machines whereby you could play them a couple times, they�d self destruct and you�d never have to worry about returns.

While the allure to consumers is one-stop shopping, the charm for Jewel-Osco and other grocery stores is unmanned profit. As many grocery chains move in the direction of outsourcing their video and game rentals, GETAMOVIE plans to benefit from Jewel�s loyal and voracious customer base in return for a profit-sharing relationship with Jewel.

GETAMOVIE machines are currently installed in Jewel-Oscos at 1755 W. Ogden Ave. in Naperville, 2855 W. 95th St. in Naperville, 1200 W. Boughton Rd. in Bolingbrook and 50 E. Ogden Ave. in Westmont. Further Chicagoland expansion is planned for later this summer with the goal of building a national network over the next 12 months through franchising, according to DeLazzer.

In the first four days of business, DeLazzer says the company has signed up 300 customers at the four Chicagoland Jewel-Osco stores. He says healthy interest could bring GETAMOVIE machines to all 165 Chicagoland Jewel-Osco stores in three months.

Formerly an eight-person company, GETAMOVIE now has four full-time employees and is funded by DeLazzer, Kuehnrich and Chicagoland angels and organizations. Though DeLazzer declined to specify the names of his external funding sources, he says GETAMOVIE is currently working on a second round.

Posted by Craig at May 25, 2004 02:17 PM