CATI: Christians And The Internet

Discussion of various matters of interest related to the Internet, particularly from the perspective of conservative, Reformed (or Presbyterian) Protestantism.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Best Movies: Where to Rent Them

Last time I didn't really tell you how to find the best movies, but I did, I hope, suggest some ways in which you can find out whether a particular film is likely to be a good film. (If I get braver, I may sometime in the future suggest to you a list of some of what are, in my opinion, among the best movies of all time. BUt that's not my purpose right now.

OK. Let's suppose you want to see a good film. One drawback is the large expense of seeing a film in a movie theatre. If it's just two of you, then the cost may be $10 or more; for a family of four or more, we're talking $20 or more. Some consider the "theatre-going experience" to be worth it, but that partly depends on the theatre (and particularly on the audience).

As for the Traver family, we see almost all of our movies on videocassette of DVD, and it costs us about 1.50 per film (which, for the two of us, means about 75 cents each@). We have great films to choose from (the Philadelphia area has two of the best video rental places in the country, TLA Video and Movies Unlimited, so far as selection is concerned). We don't have a huge-screen or high-resolution television, but it's large enough that we can watch "letter-boxed" films with discomfort. (Those are the films where the shape is the wide-screen shape you get in the movie theatres, rather than those where "the picture has been formatted to fit your TV.")

We are able to be good stewards and cut our costs, because TLA Video offers special prices if you pre-purchase a "punch card" and has so many other extras to offer (e.g., ordinarily you can get three films for the price of two on any day of the week, and often there are special offers of two films for the price of one). In addition, you can reserve particular films ahead of time, and TLA Video will phone you when they are in.

I know, you don't live in the Philadelphia area. You may live in an area where your local video store charges high prices and offers very little selection. Why, however, does TLA Video offer such attractive features (such as now letting you keep films out an additional day more than they had earlier, without any additional charge)? It's because they know that they have commpetition, and they know that many people know that. And part of that competition is available to you, regardless of where you live in the country and whatever video rental stores you may have available in your area. Read on!

Imagine being able to rent a video and being able to keep it out as long as you want with no additional charges. Your total cost? $10 a month. Imagine being able to rent three videos at a time and be able to to keep them out as long as you want with no additional charges. Your total cost? $18 a month. That is, that's no more than the cost of going out once or twice a month to your local movie theatre!

How is this done? By signing up with one of the on-line video rental places. Yes, they send the movies to you by mail, but they pay the shipping both ways (you can see why they don't mind your keeping a film longer - they have to pay the shipping@, and - at least with the giants in the business - you have more than 50,000 films from which to choose,

From the research I have done (including looking at customer satisfaction), I would probably probably recommend Netflix, which you can find here:


As their home page indicates, their basic plan (one DVD at a time, which is probably adequate for many people) costs $9.95 a month (if you want three DVDs at a time with no monthly limit, that will cost you you $17.99 a month) , and there's free shipping both ways. They advertise "No late fees - keep DVDs as long as you want," but, of course, that's to their advantage as much as yours. (If you keep a film longer, as I just said, you're just saving them shipping costs.) And you can cancel at any time on-line, and there are no cancellation fees.

Here's the procedure (and the "catch," if the plan has a "catch"): you create a list of DVDs on-line (Netflix claims to offer 55,000+ different titles of all kinds), and _from that list_ they send you one or more DVDs (depending on your plan). If I understand the situation, that probably means that it could be difficult (maybe impossible) to order a particular CD at a particular time. (Even so, the same would often be true of your local video rental store.) You keep each DVD as long as you want, and return a viewed movie to get a new one _from your list_. (You do, however, get the first available title from the queue you set up.)

Another possibility is Blockbuster Online, which you can find at this address:

     Blockbuster Online

They also have a $9.95 a month plan (although they are reluctant to admit that they have such a plan; they prefer to push their $17.99 plan), where they also pay shipping both ways. The disadvantage is that they only claim to have 50,000+ titles. The advantage is that they have some special offers, such as this: "Each month BLOCKBUSTER Online® provides you with two ecoupons for FREE in-store movie rentals. Print your ecoupons and take them into your nearest participating BLOCKBUSTER® store to enjoy your free movie rentals."

Netflix and Blockbuster are the "biggies," but there are a number of smaller companies that sometimes offer options not available with the bigger companies.

Below is one review of the major on-line video rental companies:
Blockbuster Online - carries more than 40,000 [now 50,000] DVD titles available for rental. Free shipping both ways via US Mail. Having 3 movies out at a time costs $17.99. Beats rushing back to the corner store on a Monday morning to beat the late fees!

Netflix - long the leader in the on line DVD rental business, Netflix began delivering DVD movies to your door since 1999. With over 3 million members and a library of over 50,000 [now 55,000] DVD movie titles, they have built a network of shipping warehouses allowing them to deliver movies usually within 48 hours via first class US Mail. Movie rentals are available via a monthly subscription fee ($10-$30, depending on whether you have 1 or 5 out at a time), so you are essentially committed to renting and viewing movies every month on an ongoing basis. Once your account is set up, you create a list (queue) of movies you want to see, and Netflix automatically ships the first available title. They arrive in the mail in little red envelopes, with a postage-paid return envelope [with] it. If you buy the 2 movie at a time plan, you will be sent 2 DVDS. Keeps them as long as you like, there are no late fees. When you are done, mail them back, and Netflix sends the next one on your list. It's that simple.

Walmart - well, they tried providing movie rentals by mail, but they gave up and partnered with Netflix instead!

QuikFliks - DVD rentals through the mail, but with their Rapid Return they ship your next movie while your returned DVD is in transit, meaning you can go through 1.5x or 2x more movies per month than with similar services. However, the cost goes up the more you watch - a 4 movie at a time plan with up to 32 movies total per month is $58....

Verdict: Netflix is the clear leader here, no reason to go elsewhere. Their service and response time is excellent given their multiple shipping and receiving locations across the country. If you want to rent DVD movies online, go to Netflix. If you want to rent DVD movies from a store, head down to your local Blockbuster.

     Online DVD Movie Rentals

An older review of the various on-line DVD rental vendors also concluded that Netflix was the best choice (Walmart was the runner-up, but Walmart is now part of Netflix):

# Large movie selection
# Comprehensive search/browse interface
# 20+ distribution centers for fast delivery
# High movie availability
# Online movie trailers (some movies)



Review Summary:

Netflix is by far the largest online movie rental service available today. With 98% market share, it currently has over 2 million subscribers. Rightfully so. I have personally used Netflix for the past 6 months and have yet to experience a problem. With over 50,000 [now 55,000] titles to choose from, you'll be hard pressed to come across a movie that Netflix does not have. The movie search/browse interface is extremely easy to use and is very clean and professional. It even has a personalized 'Recommentaions' area, where movies are recommended to you based on your ratings of previously viewed movies. Netflix offers multiple professional critic reviews, top 100 lists, and critic's picks. You can search for movies based on several criteria such as movie title, actor/director names, movie studio, genre, etc. Netflix has more than 25 distribution centers nationwide to ensure fast shipping. Normally it takes 1-3 days to get your movie from the time you add it to your queue.

     Online DVD Movie Reviews

So it appears that Netflix is without question the top choice. The price is right (including the free shipping), they offer a larger number of selections, they have multiple shipping locations, they've been around for a while, and they seem to rank high in customer satisfaction (judging from incidental references to Netflix I've seen on message boards, in chat room transcripts, etc., and not just from formal customer surveys). I'm seriously considering trying them myself (as you might guess from the research I've done).

Let me know how you make out.

Barry Traver


At 9:33 PM, Blogger Leopoldtulip said...

Blockbuster On-line gives a lot of coupons not just for free rentals, but for a free movie from the "previously viewed" rack, which is a nice value. I also prefer Blockbuster's free rental e-coupons because there's more room for spontaneity than with NetFlix--if you're in a special mood for a movie, you don't have to request it several days ahead of time. Still, I've heard good things about NetFlix, and since this is not a paid advertisement for Blockbuster On-line, I'll stop here.


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