My first Redbox experience

I’m living in the city now, which is exciting, but if you’re not a cinephile like myself, you’re probably not thinking that this would have any impact on my ability to watch movies. You would be wrong. For one thing, theaters are much more scarce down here whereas in the suburbs they cater to specific towns/regions and are never more than 15 minutes away by car. There’s also parking. But that’s another matter. Right now, I’m talking specifically about watching movies that I missed in theaters that have just come out on DVD. In the burbs, the library was my best option. Brand new releases were tough to get, but they were free. Now, I’ve discovered the wonders of Redbox.

Strategically placed outside convenience stores, Redbox machines, for those who are not familiar or who have just ignored them after grocery excursions thinking they’re probably expensive and tough to use, allow you swipe your credit card and rent a film for a dollar a day. You find a film you want using the easy touch screen, it tells you when it would be due and then you swipe if you want it or cancel. The machine spits out the disc and then you simply bring it back. You’re charged at the initial swipe and then for every day past the due date you keep it. If you know you can watch a film within a day and a half (depending on when you check it out), that’s only $1 for a brand new DVD release. It’s way cheaper than On Demand and probably a video store and when you’re in the city, you’re probably not more than a few blocks away from the nearest machine.

I decided to give it a try when I went to get groceries. I picked up “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” (a terrific film that you can read my review of) watched it on my computer with no issues and returned it the next day. All it cost me was a walk on a nice summer’s day. Since it was also a Tuesday (DVDs come out on Tuesdays), I thought I would check to see if they had the newest titles (because I know what’s coming out every week, always) and sure enough, they had them in stock. They would probably get swooped up before the night was through, but the prospect of having an On DVD review up for you guys to read within in 24-48 hours of a DVD’s release is a pretty nice idea. I also signed up with and saw that I could reserve movies as well, which the stupid library won’t even allow, so I can make sure the big movies I missed (“Alice in Wonderland”) get covered the second the DVD is available.

If I carefully choose when I rent and make sure I have time to watch the film in the allotted time, that’s only maybe $5 a month tops which is hardly an addition to my Netflix account. Unlike Netflix, I also don’t have to hope that a new release will be in stock and even so, many major studios have signed a deal with Netflix to delay new releases for four weeks in attempt to boost DVD sales.

It’s no wonder Blockbuster is screwed. It takes just as much to find one of the Redbox kiosks as it does to get to the video store. Perhaps they don’t have as many copies as Blockbuster, but you also don’t have to go out of your way if you go to Walgreens, Walmart or whatever your local grocery store chain is with any regularity. You also don’t need to have a membership card, just a credit card and that’s how they identify you in the system. (You do have to provide an e-mail address the first time as well).

The business model is also way better. Rather than charge you $3.99 and let you keep it for a certain number of days and then charge you “late fees” beyond that (though I know Blockbuster has gotten rid of this to some extent), Redbox charges you the very minimum of a dollar and then another for every day you keep them from renting that disc to a new customer. Blockbuster was screwing over the people who could rent a movie and bring it back in a day on account of the people who were irresponsible, plus they added late fees. That’s how they lost business when Netflix came out. With Redbox’s daily rate instead of a flat charge plus late fees, the impetus is on you to bring it back on time, otherwise you pay more than the more-than-reasonable initial price.

Instead of “making it a Blockbuster night,” it’s ten times easier to make it a Redbox night. If your plan is to stay in and watch a movie one night, why do you need a three-day window to return it? You watch it that night and return it the next afternoon and it’s cheaper. I imagine some people would pick up a movie Friday and figure they’ll watch it sometime this weekend, but most people in the working world have busy schedules and usually decide the night of that they want to watch something. Identifying this was one of Blockbuster’s many failures.

Everyone has different movie rental habits, but if you have a Redbox close to you, I encourage testing it out on a day you know you can watch a movie and see if it’s right for you.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment