BATTLE OF THE KIOSKS SHAPING UP

Alex Camara, the recently appointed head of NCR's entertainment division, says that his company plans to install 10,000 Blockbuster Express video kiosks in stores by the end of next year. (Five hundred are currently installed.) The figure is roughly half the number of Redbox kiosks that are already in place in supermarkets, convenience stores, drugstores, and McDonald's restaurants. But Camara points out that the kiosks that NCR is building for Blockbuster will hold twice the number of titles as Redbox's. "So we're not limited to just new releases," he observed. "For instance, we're going to do a campaign around the Sundance Film Festival." Camara also noted that NCR has "a sizable investment" in MOD Systems, whose kiosks download movies and music from the Internet and transfer them to mobile devices or burn them onto DVDs or CDs automatically. It currently offers about 4,000 video titles, but Camara observed, "The title capacity is unlimited." Camara indicated that he is working to avoid the kind of confrontation with the principal movie studios that currently dogs Redbox. "We want to have a working partnership with studios," he said, without offering details of the partnership he has proposed. Addressing concerns that the video kiosk business poses a threat to the movie industry, Camara told the magazine, "The pie has grown. It hasn't cannibalized other parts of the market. ... It's a tough economy at the moment, so having a convenient way to get a reasonably priced DVD for your family is very attractive."

OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD?

Warner Bros. kicks off a week-long celebration of the 70th anniversary of MGM's The Wizard of Oz with a one-night screening of a digitally remastered print in 400 cities tonight (Wednesday). (The classic MGM film library fell into Warner's hands when Time Warner acquired Turner Broadcasting in 1996.) On Thursday, a 7 1/2-story hot-air balloon resembling the one in the movie will arrive in front of a yellow brick carpet at New York's Tavern on the Green following a promotional tour that began on May 13 when it took off from -- where else? -- Kansas City KS. Greeting it will be Judy Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft, several surviving Munchkins, and Ashanti, the star of the current New York City Center production of The Wiz. The Empire State Building will also be lit in Emerald City green for the occasion.

DIRECTOR'S CUT OF WATCHMEN TO INTEGRATE ANIMATED SHORT

In a first for the studio -- and perhaps for any studio -- Warner Bros. plans to integrate an animated short, "Tales from the Black Freighter," into a director's cut edition of Watchmen as part of Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut, scheduled for release on Nov. 3. The studio had originally released "Freighter" as a direct-to-DVD title last March as part of its promotional campaign for Watchmen's theatrical releasethat month. In addition the studio said that the package will include the original theatrical release of the movie, and all 12 chapters of Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic that were originally distributed through Apple's iTunes store last year, plus numerous other featurettes.

CHINA APPEALS WTO RULING ON FILMS, RECORDS, BOOKS

As expected China has appealed a ruling by the World Trade Organization that would force the Asian nation to end many of its restrictions over the distribution and sale of movies, music and books. The WTO ruling, which had been sought by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and other U.S. media groups would require China to allow producers greater access to the Chinese market, but it turned down an MPAA complaint over China's insistence that all movies be distributed by two state-owned companies. While the WTO has no enforcement power, it can allow member countries to retaliate against the Chinese practices by setting higher tariffs on Chinese products. Meanwhile, the matter will remain in flux pending a decision by the WTO's appellate body, which will likely come early next year.

Cinemark Movie Club