Unique online rental options abound

Video rental stores are quickly becoming a thing of the past, with little mom and pop stores rapidly disappearing. Some even predict that all movie rental stores will become an entity of the past within the next year or two. Yet Americans are still investing a good chunk of change in their favorite past time with an estimated $7 billion spent in movie rentals alone. How then does one justify this? It’s a digital revolution baby!
These days, one doesn’t even have to leave the house to watch whatever film one desires, and in this recession, it doesn’t hurt to know what the best options are for watching from home. Let’s forego mentioning the On Demand option that cable boxes offer for a fee, or the cable movie channels. Let’s talk movies delivered to your door without a cable box. All one needs is a computer, and for that matter, they can be free.
Sure there are plenty of illegal avenues out there on the Internet to find a movie for free viewing, but there are legal options too. Although people may be posting movies in pieces on YouTube and the quality is less than desired, there are legitimate corporations using the same technology. For instance, MGM Digital Media has posted seven of their older films in totality on YouTube to be enjoyed for free.
Then there’s hulu.com that has several movies and television shows in its databases for viewers to watch for free. Here one can find everything from more recent films like “Liar, Liar” to older classics like “Somewhere in Time,” and new films are being added every day. Yes, there are commercials to contend with, but what’s the price of watching a commercial here or there for a free flick?
There are even such new resources in the works like LendAround.com which is encouraging people to share the DVDs they already own for free. This can be a person-to-person transaction that doesn’t cost anything, or it can be done long distance by mail for only the cost of a stamp thanks to the customized mailers used on the site. Unfortunately, while this is a great idea, the site is only in the beta stage at the moment and has a waiting list for people interested in joining.
But there are limits to “free” movies. What if there’s a particular new release one wants to see, but it isn’t available through any of these free sources? That’s where on-line rental services come into play.
iTunes has movies available for rent that can be downloaded directly to your computer for the cost of $3.99 per new release and only $2.99 for an older film. This can be stored on a computer for up to 30 days, but once the rental is played even for a few minutes, then the 24-hour time limit starts ticking. That’s right, there is only 24 hours to watch the film before it disappears off the computer forever. Considering that HD is only available for rent from Apple TV and that the aspect ratio of the films for rent from iTunes is considerably crunched, this isn’t the greatest option.
Blockbuster.com is one step up the food chain. They offer a monthly rental package that will deliver DVDs through the mail directly to your door. This package can include the rental of Blu-Ray DVDs at no extra cost, but that’s really where the perks end. The cheapest option is $8.99 per month and that’s for only one DVD rental strictly through the mail with a limit of typically two DVDs out per month. That is not a deal.
The “Total Access” package that Blockbuster is currently promoting has the added option of returning DVDs to their local stores and exchanging it for something in the store for a quicker rental turn around. This too is limited, however, depending on the rental package that one selects. The cheapest option here is $11.99 per month and again this is only for one DVD out at a time and is limited to two in-store exchanges per month. The best option in this range is actually $21.99 per month for unlimited in-store exchanges with again only one DVD out at a time. Again, this is not a deal.
Not to mention, none of the Blockbuster rental packages include downloaded movies that can be watched on the computer instantly. Instead, much like iTunes, they offer a fee per downloaded movie that varies depending on the film. And just like iTunes, it can be stored on your computer up to 30 days, but has a 24-hour watching time limit. Even more unfortunate is the fact that Blockbuster downloads only work with PCs. Furthermore, if one purchases a downloaded movie from Blockbuster, it cannot be burned onto a DVD or played on an iPod or PSP. Again, this is not a deal.
Netflix, on the other hand, offers one much more for their money. For as little as $8.99 per month, one can have unlimited “instant” movies to view on the computer (or on the television if one has the correct equipment), as well as DVD rentals by mail. Although this is the one DVD out at a time package, the instant movies more than make up for the lag time DVDs in the mail might take, plus their movies can be viewed on PCs and Macs.
There are a few drawbacks, however. It costs a little extra to rent Blu-Ray discs, but even then it’s only $1 per month. Also, the movie selection for instant viewing is a tad bit more limited than say Blockbuster or iTunes when it comes to the availability of new releases. But for $10 a month, Netflix really does offer the best of all the at-home-movie-watching worlds.
Whether one chooses to watch a film via hulu or Netflix, it’s clear that the way people used to watch movies at home is changing. With the advances of technology, it has become easier and easier to find what one wants at the touch of a button, all from the comfort of one’s couch.