It’s Friday night and people everywhere are trying to decide what movie they would like to unwind with. Video stores are jammed with shoppers, moving up and down the aisles, picking over a New Releases section that resembles a Sunday brunch buffet on Monday morning. For those smart enough to subscribe to an online movie rental service however, the time that others spend driving across town and scrambling to find the latest blockbuster is instead spent opening a bottle of wine, making popcorn and securing the best spot on the couch.
The bricks-and-mortar movie rental shop is still a valuable part of many communities, but the simple truth is that for people that don’t live in a city or large town, the local video store is uninspiring to say the least. And for people that may have tastes that run beyond the latest big-budget thriller, the selection can be utterly disappointing. Which is another reason that online movie rental shops are so valuable. Anyone with an Internet connection can have access to thousands of films from all over the world, and for usually less than what’s charged in a store.
Most online movie rental services generally work in the same fashion. Members create an account, select a particular plan, and then create a list of movies they want to watch. According to the details of the chosen plan, the first films are sent in the mail, and are free to be kept until the member chooses to return them. When they do, the process is repeated. Most plans offer an unlimited number of returns for one monthly fee, although there are usually restrictions on the number of films that can be checked out at once. DVDs are shipped by regular mail, and come in protective packaging. Included with each shipment is a pre-paid return mailer that makes shipping free both ways. Subscribers simply drop the movies in the nearest mailbox and wait for the next batch.
Surpassing the conventional video store in selection, convenience and cost, online movie rental services are obviously the wave of the future. But who are the major players? Netflix invented the concept in 1999 and indeed are still on top, or at least very near. Blockbuster has a large online presence now, although as an incentive, they offer in-store coupons to monthly subscribers, which indicates they mean to keep traffic through the physical store also. There are also a variety of smaller outfits that cater to the movie aficionado. CafeDVD is known as the spiritual home of the cinephile, whereas DVDOvernight and Intelliflix offer a selection of adult entertainment in addition to the regular feature films.