Movies on the cheap

Renting online is cheaper and more convenient than going to a walk-in video store. But there are hidden costs involved.
 
 
 
 
 
 

01 .Introduction

Movies-lead

You can pick up the latest movies from a kiosk outside your supermarket, have them delivered to your mailbox from online rental stores, or simply download them straight to your TV. 

New services offer advantages over traditional walk-in video stores, such as the convenience of having DVDs delivered to your mailbox and no late-return penalty fees. In the US, online mail order rental stores have driven major rental chains such as Blockbuster and Movie Gallery broke.

But Australian industry players don’t believe this will happen here – at least not anytime soon.

How members are renting

CHOICE conducted an online survey to find out whether our members are switching to the newer methods of movie rental or sticking with their local store.

  • An overwhelming 75% of the 532 respondents still rent movies from walk-in stores, but 18% of these are now subscribing to online rental and mail-rental stores.
  • Only about 3% download movies directly from the internet.
  • About 2% use DVD kiosks.
  • The remaining 2% borrow DVDs from their local library.

Although walk-in video stores remain the most popular method of renting movies, mail-rental DVD stores such as BigPond Movies have higher satisfaction scores among our members for cost, convenience, range and customer service.

Who’s switched

About 13% of survey respondents had switched from traditional video stores in the past three years. Of those, about 60% switched to an online mail-rental subscription service.

“Mail rental enables you to pre-select movies online, watch them at your leisure and mail them back when you are ready without any late fees or pressure to watch them overnight or in a week,” says CHOICE member Georgia.

About 30% switched to direct downloads; the rest opted for DVD kiosks, with a select few borrowing DVDs for free from their local libraries.

Movie rentals satisfaction survey
 
 

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02.Ways to rent movies

 

Walk-in DVD stores 

Pros 

  • Free membership.
  • No contract.
  • Lower rental costs and longer loan periods for older movies during the week.

Cons

  • Highest rates and late penalty fees per night for latest releases.
  • Have to go to the store. 

How it works The walk-in video store has been the storehouse of rental movies in various formats, from VHS tapes to laser discs and VCDs – all of which have been replaced by DVDs. Compared with the other options, rental costs and late-return penalty fees for the latest movie titles are the highest.
Blockbuster, Civic Video and VideoEzy are the main players here. You’ll typically pay about $7.50 per night for a new release, but some stores may offer vouchers that offset the cost of your next rental. For older movies, you can often grab five for $10 and watch them over the week.

Online mail-rental stores

Pros 

  • Huge range of movie titles.
  • Movies delivered and returned via post.
  • No late penalty fees.

Cons

  • Monthly subscription.
  • Cannot roll over the number of movie titles you did not borrow within your monthly quota.
  • Minimum term contract and early termination fees apply. 

How it works You sign up to a monthly membership plan, which is priced according to how many movie titles you wish to rent a month. Preselect your movies online and wait for them to arrive in your mailbox (typically within two business days). To return them, slot the DVDs into the postage-paid return envelope supplied and pop them in the post. The movie titles you select are usually queued, so once you’ve returned the set you’ve watched, another is sent out to you. Many online rental stores allow you to sign up for a free trial (usually between two weeks and 30 days) using your credit card; just remember to cancel the service if you don’t intend to continue subscribing, otherwise you’ll be billed automatically after the free trial period ends.

BigPond Movies offers more than 42,000 movie titles and four monthly subscription plans priced from $9.95-$29.95. The maximum number of DVDs you can borrow at any one time within a month ranges between two and four, with the total per month capped at 14. BigPond offers either a casual (monthly) membership or an annual subscription. Cancellation fees apply if you decide to switch from a longterm to a casual membership or drop your membership altogether.

Quickflix has more than 40,000 movies and offers five monthly price plans ranging from $9.95- $29.95. The maximum number of DVDs you can borrow in one month ranges from a minimum of two up to unlimited, depending on your plan. Quickflix also has about 200,000 online members contributing movie reviews and ratings. Its high cancellation fees – $50 for breaking a six-month contract or $100 for an annual one – are definitely a minus.

WebFlicks offers more than 20,000 titles and member reviews of movies, with 12-monthly plans costing between $9.95 and $79.90. The number of DVDs you can borrow per month ranges from two to unlimited. You’ll need to call WebFlicks during working hours if you decide to cancel your subscription – you cannot cancel online or via email.

DVD kiosks

Pros 

  • Convenient access – machines are usually located in malls near supermarket entrances.
  • Free membership, no contract.
  • Able to reserve titles in advance.
  • Cheaper nightly rate and late penalty fees than walk-in stores for the latest movies.

Cons 

  • Rental cost and loan period not differentiated between older movies and latest releases.

How it works Select the movie you want from a DVD vending machine and pay with your credit card. The machines are usually stocked with the latest releases.

Oovie A DVD costs $2.99 per night, with a penalty fee of the same amount if you don’t return the DVD to a vending machine by 9pm the next day. There are about 170 machines in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Each machine carries up to about 150 movie titles, and you can return the DVDs to any other machine within the same state. You can also fi nd available movies at each machine via Oovie’s website (www.oovie.com.au), reserve them and pick them up later.

Red Room There are seven Red Room kiosks in NSW and three in Queensland. The kiosks are open 24/7. Membership works on a prepaid basis, with rental charges deducted from your account balance once DVDs are returned. You don’t have to be a member to rent. New releases start from $2.95.

Direct downloads (or movies on demand)

Pros

  • Instant access.

Cons

  • Limited selection compared with online and walk-in video stores.
  • Must have broadband connection with sufficient speed and data allowance to download movies.
  • High set-up costs if you don’t already have the equipment needed.
  • Time pressure to view a movie.

How it works You can rent movies to screen directly onto your TV, using either a cable connection such as Foxtel or via your broadband account and a separate media device. You’ll usually have between seven days and two weeks to watch the movie. Once you’ve started watching it, you must complete complete doing so within 48 hours, after which your provider will delete the movie from your media device.

BigPond Movies on Telstra T-box($299) For most BigPond broadband members, downloading movies won’t count towards your monthly usage but requires an internet connection speed of at least 3.5Mbps. If your ISP is not Telstra, you can still rent the movies via your PC but it will guzzle up your monthly data allowance. Latest releases cost $5.95 each, older movies $3.95.

BigPond Movies on LG TV with Netcast connects your modem cable directly to your digital TV, allowing you to access the internet, BigPond TV programs, BigPond movies and games via your LG plasma or LCD TV. No media device is required, but you’ll need a cable or broadband connection of at least 3.5Mbps.

CASPA On-Demand requires a TiVo device and a broadband connection – preferably with one of TiVo’s unmetered ISP partners such as iiNet and Internode, so downloads have no impact on your monthly data allowance. A TiVo media device (which costs at least $699) is a digital video recorder (DVR) that enables you to record, pause and rewind live digital TV, as well as download content via broadband. Latest release movies are $5.95 each and older movies $3.95.

FetchTV is iiNet’s offering of digital free-to-air and pay TV, and includes 30 free movies per month. You can choose a $29.95/monthly plan and pay $99 for the set-top box installation, or $19.95/month and $399 to buy the box. Subscription is on top of your existing iiNet broadband subscription, and you’re contracted for at least 24 months. Latest movies will soon be available, but at extra cost.

Foxtel Box Office You’ll need a Foxtel subscription (packages priced between $72 and $135 per month) which comes with a Foxtel iQ set-top box to access pay TV channels on your TV. Standard definition movies cost an extra $5.50 per movie, while high definition (HD) movies are $6 each.

iTunes You can rent movies from the iTunes Store and watch them on Apple TV ($329), a media device that allows you to play HD movies and music albums on your digital TV. Renting a new- or recent-release movie on standard defi nition costs $5.99, and $6.99 for HD quality. Older titles cost between $3.99 and $4.99. You can now also rent HD movies on your iPad.

Microsoft Xbox Live requires an internet-connected Xbox 360 and subscription to Microsoft’s Xbox Live online service. Launched late last year, this service can be accessed with the free silver Xbox Live membership. At the moment it has only 100 rental titles, mainly older movies, which cost between $4 and $8. You’ll soon be able to access Foxtel movie and pay TV channels on the Xbox 360.

Sony PlayStation 3 You need to have the PlayStation 3 system to access its movies-on-demand service. There are 600 titles available, with the latest movies costing $5.99 in standard definition and $6.99 for HD.