PACKAGING MAKERS PRESENT DVD OPTIONS

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SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Market success for the new digital versatile disc format may take a few years, but packaging designers promoted a variety of options at Replitech International.

Styles from Ivy Hill Graphics, Amaray and Laserfile package DVD products in the market from, respectively, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Media Services, Sony Entertainment's Columbia Tri Star pictures and PolyGram NV's video operations. Columbia Tri Star also uses traditional polystyrene jewel cases to test consumer preferences.

Proponents of various DVD packaging concepts pressed another half-dozen alternatives for acceptance at the June 3-5 exhibition in San Jose.

Since early February, manufacturers have shipped about 200,000 DVD players, 80 percent in the United States, and 600,000 discs, Robert Pfannkuch, president of Panasonic Disc Services Corp. in Torrance, Calif., told the conference on June 3. There are ``10 hardware manufacturers, 16 replication companies and 270 titles available,'' he said.

The 1 millionth Snapper case, featuring a molded polypropylene tray and a paperboard cover, was produced May 21, according to Frank LoVerme, vice president of advanced media sales for Warner Media Services.

``We're extremely busy, we're bringing on more capacity and we anticipate being sold out in the fourth quarter,'' he said.

Warner Media Services markets for Time Warner business units Ivy Hill Graphics in Amityville, N.Y., and Warner Advanced Media Operations in Olyphant, Pa. The integrated operations began sampling of DVDs in 1995 and released movies on DVDs in Japan starting in December, and the United States in March.

``Wamo has replicated two of every three [DVDs] that have been shipped throughout the world,'' LoVerme said.

There is ``no trend until the market votes,'' but there is ``a lot of positioning of alternative designs for when there is a market,'' said Paul Gelardi, president of E Media in Kennebunk, Maine. E Media represents the automation lines of Italy's Gruppo Industriale Macchine Automatiche SpA.

At Replitech, GIMA demonstrated its automated CD 870, which can package DVDs into the Snapper at a speed of 55 parts per minute. GIMA was shipping the floor equipment, valued at $400,000-$450,000, directly to Wamo, according to Sandro Quadrelli, GIMA chairman who founded the firm in 1977.

The system represents a big commitment and a big risk in today's uncertain DVD market, Gelardi noted. The CD 870 ``could accommodate subtle changes'' in the Snapper-Box.

Since 1991, GIMA has made about 300 machines to package standard CDs, minidiscs and floppy discs in jewel cases. The company employs 75, occupies three Bologna, Italy, facilities and recorded 1996 sales of about $30 million.

Wamo installed another Snapper packaging machine last fall. Kitano Engineering Co. Ltd. supplied the packaging assembler, which cost $300,000-$400,000, according to Jay Fugichi, Kitano sales representative in Deerfield, Ill. Kitano employs 150 and made the machine in Tokushima, Japan.

The Amaray name refers to a one-piece, DVD-safe case molded of PP with a living hinge that Columbia TriStar used as part of its product launch. Cases are made in Newark, N.J., and Northamptonshire, England.

Stefan Pijanowski said the DVD sits completely nested in the case. Users press a center button to release the disc. The PP film title-sheet insert is a low-cost, low-risk feature, according to Pijanowski, managing director of DuBois Ltd. in Corby, England, and its subsidiary Amaray Media Packaging Ltd., a videocassette supplier.

The firm licenses DVD-safe case production to Joyce Molding Corp.'s Amaray International Division.

Laserfile International Inc. disclosed two new packaging accounts for its DVD sliding tray. PolyGram Video said it will release seven films into the sell-through market by the end of June; and Image Entertainment Inc. of Chatsworth, Calif., launched in late May, distributing a video centerfold of Playboy magazine's Playmate of the Year.

PolyGram conducted focus groups, finding eight of 10 respondents preferred the Laserfile packaging to paper-based packaging versions, Bill Sondheim, president of PolyGram Video in New York, said in a news release. Parent firm PolyGram NV is a Dutch entertainment group.

Laserfile's smaller, clear, plastic CD package received a bronze award in the packaging and graphics category of the 1997 Industrial Design Excellence Awards, announced May 23.

In corporate developments, Laserfile said it moved its headquarters to Los Angeles from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., effective June 9.

Founder Arthur Herr is retiring, Michael Dubelko continues as board chairman and Andria McClellan was promoted to president. Previously, she was Laserfile's vice president of sales and marketing.