HOPING FOR A CD-ROM BLOCKBUSTER

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Blockbuster Video is hoping for a new-media box-office bonanza with its first branded CD-ROM.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based retailer next month plans to release "Blockbuster Video Guide to Movies & Videos" a CD-ROM version of a book by the same name that has sold 300,000 copies.

The video retailer is hoping its brand name will help the title out-sell the dozen or so movie CD-ROMs already on the market.

The $30 title contains more than 5,000 photographs, 1,200 biographies, 40 film clips, various film histories, a trivia game and information on 21,000 movies. Current category leader "Cinemania," from Microsoft Corp.'s, has information on about 17,000 movies.

Though Blockbuster has tested selling other CD-ROMs in its stores, the movie guide is the first to be distributed throughout the chain.

"We view this product as a profit center," said Ron Castell, Blockbuster senior VP-programming. Blockbuster will receive a royalty from sales of the disc.

Blockbuster boast 45 million card-carrying members and racks up roughly 1.5 million transactions a day at its 2,300 stores.

"The volume of foot traffic is astounding," said Len Jordan, VP-marketing for Creative Multimedia, the Portland, Ore., software company publishing the title. In addition to the Blockbuster chain, Creative Multimedia has lined up 10,000 other retail outlets to carry the CD-ROM, including mass-market merchants such as Wal-Mart Stores and computer stores such as Egghead Software.

Creative Multimedia, maker of other CD-ROM products with partners such as Life magazine and the Smithsonian Institution, also is wrapping up deals to bundle the Blockbuster disc with computers from leading marketers.

Unlike its competitors, the Blockbuster CD-ROM will include an online link providing reviews of 80 to 100 new video titles every month.

Blockbuster hopes the online service, costing about $3 per month, will serve as a ongoing inspiration for consumers to come in and buy or rent its products.

"As soon as my book comes out, it's obsolete," said Mr. Castell, who also served as editor of the paper version of the film guide.

"With the online service, the CD-ROM becomes a living, breathing piece of software."

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