One area in which I have vigilantly slashed my spending is the “Entertainment” category. I include cable television, movie theaters, concert tickets, bars, sporting events, and a bunch of other things in this category. The easiest expense to cut back on thus far has been the TV/movies area. For television, Hulu has aided me in getting rid of cable completely. This may change with the recent news of them converting to a pay service.
Photo by Greg Bowers via Flickr
This move towards Hulu had an unintended effect of limiting my movie options when I just want an hour and a half plotline to daze off into. So, what does a guy do? You can watch the poor selection of free movies on Hulu, you can spend a small fortune at the movie theatre, or you can rent a movie.
When looking at ways to rent a movie, you have a few options.
Blockbuster and Hollywood Video
The brick and mortar rental arena is pretty much dominated by large players like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. They have the advantage of allowing you to pick up a wide selection of movies on a last minutes notice.
They typically charge $5 or more per rental and tout “No Late Fees” — but take longer than a few weeks to return it, and you will own the movie (for an inflated price, of course)! Ouch.
Netflix and Blockbuster Online
To combat the pricey-ness and late fees, albeit disguised late fees, Netflix and Blockbuster Online offer an e-movie store. You pay a fixed monthly price, have the movies delivered to your door, and can hold on to them as long as you want. All you need to do is mail them back when you’re done (or take them back to the brick & mortar store in the case of Blockbuster online).
However, this requires a monthly subscription cost that may make the cost per DVD more expensive than if you were to rent them individually. This is entirely dependent on your usage. You need to plan ahead; If you want to watch a movie tonight, you needed to order it two days ago at least.
Then, there’s Redbox. So, how does Redbox compare?
At only $1 per night for a DVD, the pricing is VERY competitive. If you typically get a DVD and watch it in the same night, you could get at least 9 movies per month and still be competitive with the lowest tiers for the mail services.
As far as selection is concerned, Redbox has a very limited capacity. Afterall, all of the movies need to fit in the kiosk unit. Every time I have used Redbox, it has been for a new release. For older movies, I simply go to the local library for them. Libraries are lackluster with their new release selection, which makes for a good complement to Redbox.
|Source of Rentals||Mail and Brick & Mortar||Brick & Mortar|
|Price||$8.99 (1 DVD at a time), $13.99 (2 DVDs at a time), $16.99 (3 DVDs at a time)||Same as Netflix + option to pay $3 more for the ability to swap up to 5 movies at the B&M||$1/night (Return before 9pm next day to not incur the extra $1 charge)|
|Free Trial?||2 weeks||2 weeks||Free Rental Codes (use once per credit card)|
|Locations||Web||Web + Approx 3,500 retail stores||15,000 kiosks (McDonalds, Walgreens, etc)|
In my opinion, Redbox offers the best all-around service.
When it comes to price, I am a fan of paying per use, not for some expected level of use. When I had Netflix and Blockbuster online (at different points), I wound up using them a lot less frequently than I thought I would. This drove the price per rental up to a point where I wasn’t really gaining that much value. At least with Redbox I know that I am paying $1 per rental at all times. There are plenty of free rentals to go around if you click the link for rental codes in the table above.
People often say that brick and mortar businesses cannot compete with e-tailers, but in this case, I disagree. A movie night can be little more than an impulse. A high-cost retail store may not be sustainable, but partnering with stores (like McDonalds and Walgreens) to place kiosks in is low cost, symbiotic to both partners, and much more sustainable. There is a reason that Redbox’s market share has increased to approximately 9% and their owner’s (Coinstar) stock is climbing.
When you have an urge to view an older movie that isn’t available in a Redbox, you could always check it out at the library or go to a more traditional movie store like Blockbuster. A $5 movie every now and then won’t kill your savings.
If you’re still unsure, I would suggest signing up for each of the free trials and seeing if you like them.
MLR is the owner of My Life ROI. He writes a lot of posts surrounding ways to instill money skills in children, loves his dog no matter how much PF sense it does or does not make, and cringes at the thought of students choosing careers based on the size of student loans. Please check out his website and subscribe to his feed.