I’ve been renting DVDs online for quite a long while. Here is my take on how the top 4 rental options compare.
Two words: “Forget it!”
I know how hyped up an operation Netflix is. I forgot the number of times I had to close a Netflix under-pop ad when I visit a web site. It’s been advertised and marketed like crazy. But I really think it sucks for a reason that IMHO borders on “consumer abuse” and “misrepresentation.”
Netflix promises “unlimited rentals” for the subscription category you sign up for, right? Well, think again…
If you rent just 2 movies a month, it’s fine. Netflix works just like promised.
But if you watch 15 movies a month like me, then Netflix becomes a nightmare.
The first month everything’s cool. Your DVDs arrive regularly, without pain.
But once the Netflix computer realizes that you are a high-volume customer, the shipments mysteriously slooow down to a CRAWL… for no good reason whatsoever. So much for “unlimited” rentals.
And I’m not the first one who discovered this either. I wish I could claim credit for that. The Internet is full of sites devoted to Netflix’s poor customer service and maddening “auto slow down” policy. Here are two:
Rule of thumb is this: if your cost to Netflix as a customer falls below $2 per rental, then the Central Netflix Uber-Matrix starts to punish you by sitting on your DVDs.
It’s just bad business. I’m surprised Netflix is still allowed to operate in this country despite numerous complaints by countless customers. I strongly advise you against it if you are a movie fan (nut?) like me.
2) BLOCK BUSTER
This is my preferred service and I recommend it to anyone, eyes closed.
For one thing, BB never ever slows down your deliveries, no matter how many DVDs you rent a month. This is how it works:
Day 1: You mail in your returned DVD.
Day 2: BB acknowledges receipt and mails you the next DVD in queue.
Day 3: You receive your new DVD. Period.
BB mails DVDs even on a Saturday, which I really appreciate.
Second: BB’s selection is as good as Netflix’s, if not better. I do not remember a single DVD that I found in Netflix but was not available in Block Buster.
Third: thanks to BB’s brick-and-mortar stores, when you return your DVD to a BB store near you, you get a FREE replacement. How cool is that? So, if you watch 10 DVDs a month, you can also get 10 free replacements from BB if you visit the store.
Fourth: For certain subscription categories, BB also gives coupon for an ADDITIONAL free DVD per month.
One thing you must watch for is BB’s ever-changing pricing policy.
When I first signed up with BB years ago, I used to pay $47 for 8-at-a-time unlimited rentals.
Then they chopped it down first to 5-at-a-time; then to 4.
Now, BB allows you to rent only 3 DVDs at-a-time, which might again change in the future.
I’m currently signed up for 3-at-a-time delivery (no in-store free exchange) option which costs me something like $15 a month. Not bad at all.
3) RED BOX
This is a new and acquired taste for me and I’m very pleased with it.
I’m not sure if you have this service available where you live, but where I do, you can’t miss these big red boxes standing in a corner at McDonald’s restaurants and selected supermarkets.
Red Box is a fully automated self-vending system. You make your selection on screen, swipe your credit card, get your DVD and go home happy.
Cost? Just $1 a day. No subscription is required. It’s great.
This is how use Red Box: there are quite a few new release DVDs that are not immediately available from BB. Guess what? Red Box usually has those new titles.
So, while waiting for my next BB envelope to arrive, I rent a new release from Red Box.
Since the McDonald’s or the supermarket I rent it from are the places I visit frequently, it doesn’t require a special trip either. It’s a convenient and efficient way to rent DVDs.
Last week one of the Red Box DVDs turned out to be unwatchable. It kept freezing up on me.
I called the company’s 800 number late at night and a very polite woman told me how to return the DVD the next day. She also sent me by e-mail special rental codes for TWO free rentals. I’m a happy puppy.
Red Box complements my main Block Buster option nicely. It does not have any of my favorite titles (old film noirs, French thrillers, Italian classics, Polish and Iranian dramas, John Ford westerns, etc.). But then that’s why I keep my BB subscription anyways.
The BB+RB arrangement works well for me. Both services cost me a total of $20-$25 a month and allow me to enjoy an average of 15 titles, about 4 of which are brand new releases.
4) CINEQUEST ONLINE
Cinequest is a classy online rental operation with headquarters in San Francisco.
Its collection is truly a cinema lover’s delight. I strongly urge you to go check some of their titles.
It is especially strong in animation, Indy, and Japanese/Asian titles. They even have a 3 Free Rental offer for newcomers.
I used to be a Cinequest member but I’m not anymore for a very simple reason: I live on the East Coast and CQ is in SF. It takes a whole week for me to send a DVD and get a replacement.
It just is not feasible or economical for me to wait that long for a single title.
But if you live in CA or close to SF, you might definitely want to give CQ a shot. It’s an operation run not by a faceless corporate bureaucracy (like Netflix) but real people like you who are in love with the art of moving images.