Thursday, June 08, 2006

Red alert on cheap DVD rentals

Renting DVDs is a pretty cheap form of entertainment. But watch in your area for a new company looking to make it even cheaper--as well as faster, easier, and better.

Redbox is an automated DVD rental company. It offers $1 per night rentals of new and recently released DVDs through standalone vending machines located in a number of grocery and drug stores, and yes--even McDonalds restaurants. The company is actually a wholly-owned McDonalds subsidiary.

Today, Redbox machines can be found in eight metro regions, including Las Vegas, Denver, and Hartford, Conn. Earlier this year the company began installing their attractive, bright red machines in the Mid-Atlantic Giant and Stop & Shop grocery store chains. Smith's Food & Drug, a West Coast chain, has also signed on to put Redboxes in its stores.

I found my Redbox at the local Stop & Shop. Surprisingly, I didn't notice the trademark big red machine against the wall by the checkout stands. A pink flyer at the bagging station touting $1 DVD rentals caught my eye.

I gave it a try the following Saturday night. While my wife put my infant son to bed, I hopped on my bike and rode the mile-and-a-half to the store.

I was looking for the Clive Owen-Jennifer Aniston movie "Derailed," which came out on DVD just a few weeks before. Sure enough, it was among the fifty or so shown on the Redbox's listing board, which also included recent releases like "Brokeback Mountain" and "The Chronicles of Narnia," and other selections that had been out several months already.

I selected my movie, input some basic information into the machine, and it summarized my order: one movie, one night, for a grand total of $1.06, including sales tax.

At that price, I ended up adding "The Family Stone," knowing full well that M and I would be lucky to get through one movie without falling asleep. But if "Derailed" wasn't any good--you can never be sure with Jennifer Aniston movies--we had another low-cost option. And because Redbox only charges $1 per night for each rental, we could watch "The Family Stone" the following night and still pay half the price of renting from West Coast Video around the corner.

I swiped my credit card and my DVDs appeared through a slot on the machine's side, in pocket-sized cases. The small size was handy, since I was biking it.

Fifteen minutes later, M and I were snuggled on our basement couch in front of the big screen. For the record, "Derailed" was pretty good until the very end. We never did watch "The Family Stone," turning both movies in the next day (through the same side-slot on the machine).

In all, my Redbox experience was terrific--quick, easy, and a tremendous value. As the machines become more popular, DVD availability could be a problem--each machine, according to, holds about 500 DVDs, which to me doesn't sound like much. New releases are added Tuesdays, two days before the weekend, when most people have the time to watch DVDs.

Still, the company plans to have machines in multiple locations, so if a video isn't in your grocery store's machine, you could try the McDonalds down the road. And you can return DVDs to any Redbox--renting from one in Houston for example, and returning it at another in Minneapolis. So look for them at your local airport in the not-too-distant future.

By slashing DVD rental costs, Redbox may have other rental outfits like Blockbuster seeing red. But as my grocery cashier pointed out, there are other ways to see DVDs on the cheap. He'd just watched "Brokeback Mountain" after borrowing it from the local library, which regularly gets a few copies of new DVD releases from Blockbuster for their shelves. And he didn't pay a dime.

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

My brother uses this service out in Boulder. It's a nice complement to Netflix.