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A Guide To Renting Movies Online 
 
by John Krane October 27, 2005

A brief idea of what to look for in an online movie rental service, focusing mainly on Netflix and Blockbuster.

Renting Movies Online

If you’re like me, you don’t like going to the movie store. Long lines, bad selections, and the fat guy restocking the shelves that smells like an abandoned fish store; it’s not a whole lot of fun. Luckily, since we live in the age of the Internet, we have the ability to stay in our homes while renting movies, until we reach the point where we smell as bad as the restocking guy.

Online movie rental websites are becoming wildly popular, due to their ease of use and massive selections. They're easy to use; the services send out return shipping materials and pay all shipping charges. An added benefit is that nobody can judge your movie tastes; it’s between you and your mailman that you rented the first full season of “Full House” on DVD. Here are a few tips for picking an online move rental site and plan that suits your needs.

Selection

One of the perks of being able to rent online is that you can typically find just about anything you want to rent; foreign, independent, and cult films that your local store would never carry can be rented with ease, along with obscure television shows and pretty much anything else you can think of that's been released on DVD. Of course, that's only if your movie rental website has an adequate selection. Netflix and Blockbuster.com are two rental sites with massive selections; check to see that they have what you're looking for. You may want to test the waters by searching for a few obscure films; some titles you might try are The Perfect Lamb or William B. Horschmeier’s The Fawning. If your movie rental site has these films, then its selection is more than adequate, since I made these names up.

For the movies that actually exist, check to see that the service provides you with unbiased movie reviews. These can be a great way to see if movies are worth renting, and it's entertaining to read the reviews of movies like Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (this is a real movie, by the way). It's even better if the site offers user reviews of movies. Both Blockbuster and Netflix also will recommend movies based on what you've been renting, which can be a great help if you're anticipating a dull weekend but have no idea what to rent.

Look at the queue management system of the sites; this allows you to change the shipping order of the movies you've chosen. While it may seem petty, I found NetFlix's queue management extremely easy compared to Blockbuster's confusing and bug-ridden system.

Don't forget that these sites have TV shows on DVD, as well. This can be a great resource to see shows that you missed the first time, or shows on pay-cable. It's great to catch “The Sopranos,” but it's not exactly worth a full subscription to HBO.

If you're mainly looking to watch TV shows, another video rental site you might want to consider is Apple's iTunes. The iTunes software is mainly made for music, but they've begun making television series available for purchase and immediate download—shows such as “Lost” are available for $2 per episode, perfect for late night show cravings without making a commitment to an online movie company. The shows can even be viewed on iPods equipped with video ability. However, iTunes will probably not offer full length movies, and currently only offers select shows.

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