Watching Films

As part of our cable TV package we subscribe to the Sky Movie channels. For about £15 a month we get eight Sky film channels (it was nine but one was recently removed for some reason) and a handful of Disney channels. But we pretty much subscribed to them by default (“oh, we like films so we should really have the film channels”) and we’ve recently been reconsidering our subscription. The thing is that we very rarely watch those channels. On a good month I might watch three films on one of those channels. And to be brutally honest a lot of the films we watch on those channels are crap. The most recent film I remember watching on a Sky channel was 13 Going On 30 (I know, I have no excuse).

We could rent five films a month from our local DVD rental shop for the same money. And the’y’d almost certainly be higher quality films. But we rarely rent DVDs as it means someone being organised enough to go into the shop in the evening and then remembering to take the films back the next morning. Not a major logicistical trial, I admit, but one that we seem to want to avoid as much as possible.

So I’ve been looking at these new postal DVD rental services. Things like Love Film. Amazon have a similar scheme as do Blockbuster and even Tesco. There are no doubt many now.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Do you have any experience of these schemes? Which ones work for you? What is the selection of films like? I’d be interested in hearing any comments that you have.

Update: DVD trials looks like a good place to get a summary of all of these sites.


  1. My sister has been a member of (which was previously for several years.She thinks it’s great.You can have unlimited DVDs a month, and can choose whether to have 1, 2 or 3 at a time (three costs £14.99 a month).I like it too, becasue when I visit, she always has three new DVDs in the house, and we can pick one to watch.(btw, 13 going on 30 is pretty good – I liked the Thriller dance a lot :-)

  2. Yes I have experience of all of them, and they’re all great. Best thing about them is they’re all free! You sign up, put a note in your diary, and cancel once the free trial is over.What could be simpler?

  3. I’ve been part of Lovefilm for a grand total of three weeks. I’ve yet to think of a film they don’t have (currently we have Nói Albínói out; obscure Icelandic world cinema obviously not a problem for them), the site is easy to use (subtly Ajax-y, pleasantly designed, nice recommendation lists), and it doesn’t seem too expensive.

    One thing that’s taken a bit of getting used to is that your queue is really a list from which they select; it’s not a strict “we want that one” deal. It’s fine, but if you really want to guarantee watching a very recent release tomorrow, you’re better off with a conventional video shop.

    I’m also a bit worried that, after a first week where we were conscientious about making sure we watched the films, that we’ve got a little blase (already!), but then we do seem to be having a fairly busy week.

    Generally, though, it seems to be going well enough.

  4. Both of these options can benift from time shifting. Tivo and (to a lesser extent) Sky plus can be used to select worthwhile films to be saved for later. Recording the showing at 2am in the morning is a very good idea.You can time shift reasonably easy with DVDs too. Just rip them as soon as they arrive and send them back. Of course, this is *terribly* illegal, though you can cure pangs of guilt by deleting them as soon as you’ve watched them (this also stops your hard drive being full of junk.) The downside is while ripping them is terribly easy (it’s a one click operation for Mac and Windows with Handbreak) playback will either have to be on a computer or on a computer hooked up to the TV.I also quite liked 13 going on 30.

  5. No complaints with Amazon DVD rental really, they’ve never quibbled when we say we have a problem with a disk, though we’ve had a few times when the disk we want’s not been immediately available.

  6. I have used before, they seem to be pretty good. But in saying that I haven’t tried any others. If you are going to use screenselect then do it through (they do a good deal, not sure if its better that Amazon’s service though).

  7. I use Amazon’s £7.99 per month package, and have been very satisfied with it. This deal gives you four DVDs per month, with up to two at the same time. You set up a prioritised list from their huge range, and each time you send one back they send you the next one on the list that is available. Pretty much everything you can buy can also be rented with plenty of arthouse, music, and other niche interests. An indication is given for each item on your list of how long you should expect to wait for it to become available. As you might expect, newer titles are more in demand so have a longer wait. All postage is prepaid with the packaging for your DVD doubling up as the return envelope – just seal it and shove it in the nearest postbox.

    The service seems to be run efficiently; DVDs are sent out promptly, eMail notifications are sent whenever discs are received or dispatched by Amazon. Customer service is good – I reported one DVD that jumped and they gave me a free rental. I sent one DVD back that never arrived, they said don’t worry about it. I guess they expect a certain level of loss like that.

    One thing to bear in mind is that boxed sets (TV series etc) are charged as one rental credit per disc. They too are sent out in order of availability so if you do want to rent an entire series, only add one disc at a time to your list otherwise you could get them out of sequence. You can choose to additionally rent the ‘extras’ discs for films, or just the main disc.

    The site is very easy to use; from the normal DVD purchasing site you just hit an “Add To Rental List” button, it then goes on the end of your list. You can also view and change the list order. They have recently added a one-click “Move to top of list” which is nice if you get a sudden desire to watch something on your list.

    One final benefit worth mentioning is that you get 10% off all Amazon DVD purchases. Overall I would definitely recommend the service.

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