Although the aroma of fresh popped popcorn and a darkened theater with a towering wide screen lures us to new released films, most of us still view far more movies at home than at the theater. With the introduction of online movie rental and movie downloads nearly ten years ago, the selections offered by the local video store are not the only options viewers have for their home entertainment.
Aside from the improved affordability, movie fans enjoy watching movies at home because of convenience. With busy lives that keeps us at work and on the road, time spent relaxing at home is at a premium and any service that allows us to enjoy that time without additional complexity or effort is highly prized. With this in mind, which of these movie services provides the most value for the home viewer?
Traditional video stores can be convenient for some last minute movie picks; or at least convenient if a person lives within a few blocks of the store. If someone suddenly decides at 5:30 pm. that there is time to squeeze in a showing of the most recent Harry Potter flick with the kids, then it is certainly easy to get to and from the store and be ready to view within a half an hour. This assumes of course that the store will have a copy of the DVD available in house at the time it is being sought.
If Harry isn't at the local video store, then browsing through the remaining films and examining the DVD cases may provide a hint as to what the family might enjoy. After the movie, the viewer will then have at least a couple of days to shuttle back to the store and return the movie before incurring any late fees.
Movie downloads are one of the newer options. Certainly, downloading a movie can allow viewers to decide at the last minute to view Harry Potter, or some other movie, as well. Just a quick 5 minute visit to the download site on line to select and initiate the download allows viewers to remain at home throughout the process. Most films require approximately an hour to download depending upon connection speed. The good news however is that many movie downloads are capable of allowing viewers to begin watching the movie only a matter of minutes into the download process.
There is no worry about returning rented movies that are downloaded or any late fees. Upon download, viewers have a specified period of time in which to watch the movie before it expires. Movielink for example allows movies to be stored for up to 30 days. Perhaps the one drawback for many movie downloads is that they often must be viewed on a PC rather than a television unless viewers have a connection between their PC and TV. The future however, may provide greater flexibility as legal movie download services may be better positioned to allow burning movies to DVD as some of the digital rights management issues are being addressed with movie studios.
Online movie rental services can certainly ease the process of selecting and obtaining movies. Users can go online and select from over 75,000 titles, nearly five times the number of titles offered in a local video store. Here users can create a list of movies in advance that will automatically arrive at their door. Movies requested generally arrive within 1 to 2 business days after they are requested. Users merely stick the DVDs in an envelope for the mailman to pick up when they are ready to return them; and only when they are ready to return them. There are no due dates and no late fees either. The most evident drawback to this system is for those viewers who don't decide they have the time to view a movie until earlier that same day. Mail delivery does not allow such last minute decisions.
Online movie rental services are evolving however to better accommodate those last minute choices. Netflix, the largest online movie rental service, announced in early 2007 their service can now provide a "Watch Now" feature which allows customers to stream movies directly to their PC rather than waiting for the DVD in the mail. Although not all movie titles are available for streaming at this time, it does provide a potential solution for the occasional last minute movie craving.
One of the final conveniences of online movie rental is that the sheer number of movies offered makes it more likely that a movie of choice will be available. In situations where viewers aren't sure what they want to see, the Netflix service is even able to provide recommendations based on the comments and ratings of other viewers and the actual viewing pattern of the user. The accuracy of the Netflix recommendations has been applauded within the industry and certainly offers a better option than merely reviewing the information provided by production studios on the sleeves of a DVD.
Each movie service offers different convenience advantages for home movie viewers. Determining whether movie downloads, online movie rental, or use of the local video store is best, may be dependent upon the preferred viewing patterns of a user and their access to a computer or the proximity of a local video store.