Thursday, April 21, 2005


On Chrismas Day 2004, I went into the local Blockbuster Video store with my cousin. Having recently graduated from the University of Virginia, I would no longer have access to UVA's large video and DVD collection. I learned that Blockbuster had a deal that for $25 a month, a member can have unlimited rentals and have two films checked out at a time. I signed up immediately.

I estimate that I own over 800 DVDs. Over my years working at Best Buy, I have bought many DVDs that I still have not seen. To own that many DVDs would mean that a viewer could watch a different movie every day for over two years. Chances are I may not see many of these films more than once.

One of the reasons why I have not rented many DVDs in the past is the thought of paying for individual rentals. For instance, if you spend four dollars renting a film, enjoy the film, and then purchase it, you are spending more for the film than if you originally bought it. Would it be better to spend $20 or $24 for the same movie?

At Blockbuster, I have unlimited rentals. Originally I could have two films out at a time for $25 a month, but upgraded to have three films out a month for $30. One of the reasons I like this program is that I do not feel that I'm paying for each film I see, but instead a fee "to see" anything I want. This means that I haven't wasted $4 to see a bad movie, but instead spent $30 to see many movies in one month. I have the benefit of seeing more movies than I normally would in a month because unlimited rentals is a "use it or lose it" policy; you only get to see as many films as you are willing to see each month. If you go a week without seeing films, then you missed the opportunity to use that time to see films. I am more willing to see more films than I normally would because I want to get the most out of my $30 a month.

I have been able to see many films that I would never have been willing to individually rent. I had a feeling that the movie "Soul Plane" would be bad, yet I was willing to rent it to see how bad it was. Having paid a flat fee for a month of renting films, I wouldn't have felt ripped off the way I would if I had to spend $4 just to rent this bad movie. Therefore, I am willing to see bad films like that one without feeling that I lost money to see them.

One other benefit that I have noticed is my willingness to hold off from buying films that I actually enjoyed. I loved the movie "Closer", but felt that I did not need to own the film right now. If I feel like seeing it again, I can rent it again. But I feel that this is a film that I can wait until it drops in price to purchase. Some films, like "Closer" or "Hotel Rwanda", are masterpieces that I know I cannot watch often. Therefore with my unlimited rentals, I can see again when I want to.

I like the fact that I can rent films immediately, as opposed to waiting for films through the use of an online rental service. I can show up at Blockbuster on a Tuesday (the new release day) and rent new films immediately. I love the fact that I can bring DVDs that I have viewed right back to the store and rent new ones right away. The convenience of being able to see movies the day I decide to rent them outways the inconvenience of having to drive to the video store. I would rather receive the movies I want after driving twelve minutes to the video store rather than to wait several days for a DVD in the mail.

The downside to the unlimited rentals deal is that you can only rent the films that are in the store. If you want to see a film that Blockbuster has decided not to carry in the store, then you need to rent elsewhere or use an online rental service. I plan to use an online rental service for a period of one month when I have a list of enough films to view in a month that I cannot find at Blockbuster.

As the months have gone by since I have started using the unlimited rental program at Blockbuster, I have been able to appreciate my ability to see more films than I would have had I paid for individual rentals. Blockbuster has given me the flexibility to see more of the films that they have to offer. This program has been rewarding for them as well. Blockbuster would rather have a customer spend $30 a month to see many films than one who only rents two or three films that the customer must see. Blockbuster is earning more from me than they ever would have under a different program and I am benefitting more from having a greater access to films that I have ever had before.
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