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MONDAY, JANUARY 8, 2007
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What’s the best way to watch a home movie for your money and lifestyle?
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What’s the best way to watch a home movie for your money and lifestyle?

Store, cable, online or download . . .
Which to pick to watch a flick?

By Danielle Komis
danielle.komis@decaturdaily.com· 340-2447

With the excitement of the holiday season behind us, the gray road of winter looks gloomy and dull. Chilly winter nights are like an invitation to throw on the ol’ sweats, bundle up with “Bridget Jones’ Diary” or “The Matrix” and ignore your new gym membership.

But with stay-home-and-watch-a-movie season here, now we are faced with a big question — do you order a movie through your cable company, head to the video rental store, order the DVD from an online rental company or download it?

How do you know what’s the best deal? What makes the most sense for your lifestyle? Here’s a breakdown of the different options available today.

The traditional rental store

Though perhaps losing popularity, brick and mortar movie rental stores still abound. Decatur boasts a Blockbuster, Movie Gallery, Hollywood Video and a few independent video stores.

DVD rental rose 10 percent in 2006, said Marcy Magiera, editor in chief of Video Business Online, a trade publication.

“Clearly people are still going to the store and renting a lot,” she said.

These brick and mortar stores typically charge about $4 per movie rental, whether it is new or not. However, Movie Gallery charges about $2 less for an older movie, and 99 cents for children’s movies.

Most of these stores also have an average rental period of about five to seven days, with some extremely new releases with shorter rental times. While corporate Blockbuster stores did away with late fees in January 2005, franchise stores such as the one on Beltline Road Southwest still charge late fees, as do most other video rental chains.

Those fees often mean the store charges your account again for the movie rental and allows the movie to be checked out for another full rental period.

Online movie rentals

Online DVD movie rental services like Netflix and now Blockbuster’s Total Access program are picking up momentum, though they still aren’t as mainstream as the buzz about them make them seem, Magiera said. Netflix boasts nearly 6 million members while Blockbuster’s younger online program recently hit the 2 million mark.

“Clearly it’s moving the market,” she said.

Online DVD rental services allow customers to choose from an array of different flat rate monthly rates depending on how many DVDs they want to have checked out at one time, and how many they plan to check out each month.

The services require no due dates, no late fees, and no shipping fees. DVDs are sent from numerous shipping centers to the customer and can be returned anytime in free, prepaid return envelopes. They are often shipped in as little as one business day.

Rates range from $5.99 per month at Netflix that covers two DVDs per month, one checked out at a time,to $47.99 per month for unlimited DVDs per month, eight checked out at a time.

Blockbuster’s Total Access Program is similar to Netflix but also gives customers the option to return DVDs to a local store or send them by mail.

Pay-per-view movies at home

Pay-per-view movies have been around for a while, but still have held their own because of their ease of use. With a click of the remote, you can watch a new release for around $3.99 through your cable or satellite dish provider.

However, bonus features available on rented DVDs are not available on pay-per-view movies and consumers often have less time to view these movies than they might with a rented DVD from a brick and mortar video store or an online store.

Download-to-rent

While many people have grown accustomed to downloading music, downloading an entire movie is still a bit less common. But for those with a high-speed Internet connection, downloading a movie may become their favorite way to rent.

Most of those movies are also available to buy, now that major Hollywood studios began to release movies, including new releases in 2006. Once again, the extras that DVDs offer are not available through this service. Rentals typically cost $2.99 to $3.99 on Web sites such as Amazon Unbox.

After you rent and download an Amazon Unbox Video to your computer, you typically have 30 days to view it. Once you begin playing an Amazon Unbox Video, you will have 24 hours to complete viewing it before it will automatically be deleted from your computer.

For now, few people use this method because many people are hesitant to watch a movie on their computer screen or figure out how to get it to hook up to their TV. Those in the industry are still waiting to see if this method picks up steam.

“The key is making it easy for the consumer to watch a movie on their TV and not on their computer,” Magiera said.

While movie downloads and high-definition disc sales created a buzz in 2006, revenues from both represented less than 1 percent of the coin generated by DVD last year, according to Rentrak’s Retail Essentials point-of-sale tracking service.

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