More than 15 percent of Blockbuster’s revenue comes from late fees. Why is that? Because no one feels like rushing to a rental place before midnight after watching Half Baked half baked. At least no one in college.
Here’s where the dilemma comes in. It’s nice to pay only $5 for a film, but is it worth it when you never return it on time?
The loving Blockbuster charges a moderate fee for five or seven-day rentals, but after that, this moderate fee snowballs, multiplying each unreturned day.
Isn’t there anything anyone can do about this?
Oh, but there is. The solution has come in the form of online DVD rental joints, shrouded in the heavy mist of cyberspace. But while physically inaccessible, these companies are often better, cheaper and faster than the stone-and-mortar establishments.
Netflix, the company which, so far, has the monopoly for online DVD rentals, was created with those constantly slacking, late video returners in mind. And, for many college students, that means it’s been made with them in mind.
And as for other perks, renting online beats chains such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video anyday.
Netflix’s charges a flat $20 fee, has unlimited monthly rentals and comes through the mail in one business day. The amount of movies you get each month depends only on how fast you can watch and send them back. The only thing that really takes time is deciding which DVD to move up to number one on the queue.
Netflix’s strength also comes from the site’s wide selection. As opposed to Blockbuster, which doesn’t carry films with a rating higher than R, Netflix carries director’s cuts, un-rated versions, TV series — virtually everything, old, new, independent or otherwise, that has ever been released on DVD.
Had I known of Netflix earlier, I would have never gone home with the R rated version of Y Tu Mama Tambien only to be later excluded from the detailed discussion of bodily functions pictured in the film.
Other major retailers, whether previously engaged in DVD rentals or not, are starting to jump onto the Netflix bandwagon.
Wal-Mart, already the largest retailer in the world, has started its own online rental center to increase its revenue even more. Blockbuster owns filmcaddy.com, a Web site similar to Netflix.
And, as online rentals soar in grosses, Web sites with downloadable movies are slightly beginning to suffer.
For less than $5 a pop, Movielink.com users can download movies onto their computers and watch them at their leisure. The files destroy themselves after a certain time after first opening the file. But watching films on a computer screen is sooo five years ago, since DVD players are becoming dirt cheap.
So what does this online rental mean for physically accessible rental places? A rapid decrease in business.
With the gaining popularity, unlimited rentals and no late fees, Netflix and its carbon copies are stealing the show (and the shows) from underneath Blockbuster’s nose.
And since, for many, the biggest reason for not returning to a rental place is the fear of unpaid late fees, rental retailers are slowly watching their profits dwindle as Netflix is soon scheduled to hit its two million customer mark.
Entertainment Editor Olga Robak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org