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(R)editorial: Why We Rent

Buy-vs-RentIt’s no secret that the DVD retail industry is in trouble. Disc sales have posted double-digit declines this year, and studios are panicked and looking around for a scapegoat. I want to discuss one bright spot in all the gloom: rentals. As we have discussed in earlier posts, while sales of discs have been dropping, rentals are up.

Despite a prolonged recession that has stifled most other sectors, box office receipts are actually on track to beat last year’s. This, combined with the uptick in rentals suggests a simple fact: people are still WATCHING movies, they just don’t want to OWN them anymore.

The following reasons help offer an explanation, in my opinion, of why the viewing public (myself included) has lost much of its interest in purchasing movies. Whether you agree, disagree or think of additional reasons that I don’t mention, let us know your opinion in the comments. Here we go:

Renting Just Makes More Sense
In the early 2000s, I went to work building my DVD library with vigor. Each Sunday I would scan the ad inserts in the paper from Best Buy and Circuit City to see which movies were coming out on disc and were “on sale” for $15-$18. More often than not, I would buy several of them. Looking back now, I have no idea why.

Of the several hundred movies I own or have owned on DVD, there are maybe a dozen I’ve watched enough times to justify their purchase price. I try not to think about how much I would have saved if I’d had my current “enlightened” attitude towards renting in my misspent youth. Unless I absolutely LOVE a film I’ve seen in theaters or rented and know I’ll rewatch it over the years, it’s just not worth the price of the DVD (or Blu-ray now). Only three or four movies a year make that cut, and my wallet is all the heavier for the (belated) triumph of reason in my movie-watching habits.

TV has Upped its Game
I’m not talking about The Hills, five nights of  primetime Jay Leno a week (Seriously, NBC? FIVE nights?) or the likes of this unspeakable disaster:

Bonus points to the first commenter to correctly name this show and its infamous host.

bonus points to the first commenter to correctly name this show and its infamous host

No, I’m talking about The Sopranos, The Wire, Lost, Mad Men and other outstanding shows of the last ten years or so. These are well-written, well-acted cinematic shows with a scope and production values previously only seen in films. While there have always been a few excellent serial dramas on TV, the last decade has seen the blurring of the silver screen and the small screen in a big way. Discerning television viewers now expect more from their favorite shows, and much of the magical “movie-ness” of feature films has worn off as superior fare has been created for TV. The result is that many, many Hollywood films now pale in comparison to the best television shows in recent memory. Why buy DVDs when you already have access to often-superior entertainment through your cable or dish?

Quantity over Quality
Now we come to it, the real reason why most movies today aren’t worth owning: they suck. One of the most frequent comments made on this website is that people don’t feel like plunking down their hard-earned cash to buy the crap films studios are churning out. And churning them out, they are. According to the MPAA, the number of films released domestically last year climbed to 610. 610!

An amazing film is a rare thing: a perfect storm where a great story, visionary director, talented actors and crew and supportive studio execs come together to create something truly outstanding.  Such films don’t come along that often, and studios are businesses, with employees to pay and investors to satisfy. Thus they have to take a “more is more” approach to pay the bills, cranking out sequels, remakes and other formulaic drivel to make payroll and keep the lights on. Out of the ten highest-grossing films of all time, EIGHT of them are sequels or prequels. Risk is expensive, and in most cases a studio will go with a proven and/or cheap commodity, whether or not it’s the right choice “artistically”.  The result is a bloated release slate, with only the occasional film worth the expense of purchasing.

What really bothers me, though, is that the public often rewards studios’ indifference to quality by making this behavior profitable. If I’m a studio exec who wants to keep my job and my cushy lifestyle, I’m going to greenlight the projects that get the most “bang for the buck”. Why spend several hundred million on a lavish period piece or compelling drama when I can toss out $26 million for Paul Blart: Mall Cop and watch it earn more than $180 million? There’s a reason why we get an endless parade of Scary Movie/Tyler Perry/Meet the Spartans-type pablum: they’re cheap and people pay to see them. They don’t appear nearly as interested, however, in owning them when the time comes. (Why people pay cinema prices to see those movies in the first place is a debate for another day.) Perhaps if potential DVD buyers felt that they had higher quality options, they’d be more willing to part with their cash. It might hurt studios at the front end, but there could be some serious payoff at the back end.

Even in tough financial times, people will pay to own a product they perceive is offering them value. Until Hollywood figures that out, Netflix, VOD and Redbox will continue to benefit from my (and your) buyer’s apathy. That, Insiders, is why we rent.

54 Responses to “(R)editorial: Why We Rent”

  1. Visitor [Join Now]
    CAwasinNJ [visitor]

    That would be “Mr. Personality” starring Monica Lewinsky.

    (You did give the answer away though.)

  2. Visitor [Join Now]
    Bungdillyungdung [visitor]

    One of the biggest reasons I stopped buying DVD’s (and music CD’s also) is because of the constant Reissue/Special Editions that would come out a couple years later, if not sooner, of movies I already purchased. All with just a little more added content to make me want to purchase it again.
    Very frustrating, especially if it’s a favorite movie.

  3. Visitor [Join Now]
    igloo [visitor]
    I work for VBG. To find out why this is important, click here.

    People buy less movies for 1 simple reason. Before when it cost $4-$5 to rent people figured I mid-as-well spend the extra $10 and just own it. Now that people are finding rentals for $1 it’s a whole new ball game. That’s the reason folks!!! Not the only reason but it is the main reason. Red box has made purchasing movies at retail make less sense to the average person. Which I assume why the studios are trying to stop them.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Chris [visitor]

      I used to have a collection of over 200 VHS tapes. When I finally made the switch the DVDs, I realized just how much room all those tapes were taking up and how much money I wasted as I usually didn’t watch the movie again (after the initial first time – there are a couple movies I enjoy watching over & over but not many).

      Now with Blu-ray and who knows what new technology is going to come out, I have pretty much stopped buying DVDs as I don’t want to have to try and find space for of those nor waste money on something I probably won’t watch more than once. I never really tried to build a DVD collection. The only DVDs I tend to buy now are TV series or if a movie series box set.

      The price of renting has never come into play. I stopped buying way before RedBox came into existence. I think more people have come to realize how much of a waste it is to buy a movie. Seriously, how often do people watch all the movies they own? Most watch it once, and then it just sits on a shelf collecting dust.

      Personally I think the best answer for this problem is for the studios to create two DVDs for movies. One for the rental market with just the movie, no special features. One for the retail market with all the bells & whistles. Then release the retail version a week before the rental version is available. Make this mandatory across the board.

      I use both Netflix & RedBox. RedBox because it’s usually easier to get new releases, and NetFlix to get the independent/foreign films.

  4. Member [Join Now]

    when dvd’s first came out the sale price was $12 and they were pretty good movies now they have gone up to almost $20 why would i spend that kind of money for the crappy movies they are putting out now

  5. Visitor [Join Now]
    Karen [visitor]

    I haven’t ever bought dvd’s or cd’s. I’ve never been that “into” movies or music. I do, however, rent occasionally at redbox and if it weren’t for the freebies that got me hooked, I’d never watch movies on dvd. In my opinion, entertainment for a couple of hours in my own home, using my own electronics isn’t worth a lot of money. I already pay for tv and I can certainly wait for the movie to be broadcast and spend nothing more than what I already pay for cable.
    I don’t go to movies in the theater that often either, maybe a couple of times a year.

  6. Visitor [Join Now]
    Robert [visitor]

    The reason people rent is simple. There are 2 main reasons…

    1. A movie isn’t worth seeing in theaters.
    2. Even movies that are worth seeing theaters, most aren’t good enough to watch again and again.

  7. Visitor [Join Now]
    Meg [visitor]

    I am an avid movie collector/watcher. Redbox has helped me decide which ones are good enough to buy when someday I find it in the $5 bin. I, personally, am too cheap to shell out $20 for a movie, unless it is an absolute favorite. And even then I sometimes abstain because I know it will end up cheaper eventually. I think that is one of the major reasons the DVD industry it going down, even if we like it, $20 is just too much.

  8. Visitor [Join Now]
    pauil lapke [visitor]

    R is about to much of blood and bad words sutff
    down of dead are eat humans too i hate that

  9. Visitor [Join Now]
    Shellye [visitor]

    The reason I no longer buy movies is because there just aren’t any out there worth buying. I feel I am wasting a $1.00 renting from Redbox because the movies are just SO bad, no fault of Redbox’s of course. And for those of you anti-redboxers, Blockbuster’s are an extra $2.00 wasted! The production company is who is to blame for the lack of sales.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      rb [visitor]

      Sort of like you can’t blame the waiter or waitress for the crappy food they serve. Likewise, can’t blame people from not wanting to return or buy food/meals at that restaurant ONCE they’ve eaten there and judge for themselves the food there to be crappy. Sole responsibility of the “value” of the restaurant lies with the chef and management’s skills. The studios keep seem to be blaming Redbox–the waiter who serves–for the lack of dvd sales instead on blaming and taking responsiblity for the lack of quality movies they’re turning out. Studios don’t want Redbox to give a “taste” of the movie for fear Redbox customers are then judging for themselves the movie is crappy and not worth buying,

  10. Visitor [Join Now]
    Trish [visitor]

    I rent movies because I don’t buy them any more unless I really like them. I did buy the Star Wars Collection once and then they came out with a better collection. I stopped buying collections. I rarely watch a movie more than once because there are more movies I’d like to see instead of re-watching the same ones. I do have a few movies that I really had to have and I bought them. Others, I have found at garage sales and have exchanged a few with my friends. I don’t buy DVD’s because they are getting out of my pay range.

  11. Member [Join Now]

    As stated above, 99% of movies that have come out in the past year or so aren’t worth owning because once you’ve seen ’em once, you don’t want to watch them again. Hollywood needs to stop making crappy movies like “Imagine That”, “Observe and Report”, and “Bolt”. Hollywood needs to stop cranking out so many movies(So much quantity without the quality as i’ve said on this site many times).

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      moviecrazy [visitor]
      I work for VBG. To find out why this is important, click here.

      The studios aren’t getting enough revenue to make quality movies because redbox is only charging a buck. So get used to the crap.

      • Visitor [Join Now]
        Stu Gots [visitor]

        Wow moviecrazy, let’s all shed a tear because the movie studios are only making 3 gazillion dollars instead of 4. Yes, Redbox is the #1 reason they turn out crap. Sure, and if Hollywood could make 10 bucks a rental instead of 1 then I’m sure you’d see an immediate return to quality, wonderful movies, and nirvana. Time to wake up from your nap pal!

        • Member [Join Now]

          Hey “Stu Gots” this is the “real” moviecrazy, the character you responded to is impersonating me. Trust me, if you saw any of my other posts you would know I am 100% for Redbox! So I don’t know who the jerk is that’s impersonating me but he needs to get a life and some originality!

      • Member [Join Now]

        I don’t know who you are (Imposter) but you are NOT the original Moviecrazy (that’s me!) So why don’t you pick an original name and quit using mine!

  12. Visitor [Join Now]
    K. Dougherty [visitor]

    The economy is in shambles, I lost my job and my husband will be losing his in a few weeks.

    Why buy books when libraries loan them out for free?
    Why buy movies when they can be rented, especially for a dollar?
    Why waste time or money to view movies that are basically garbage?

    The folks at the Hollywood studios should be ashamed of themselves. Talk about a sense of entitlement…

    Thank you, Redbox by being there for those who are forced to live a frugal life!

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Chris [visitor]

      Right on the mark!

      Why don’t we heard from the book publishing industry about how libraries have ruined their business? Why don’t they say they can’t publish any more good books because libraries are hurting their business.

      The movie industry is out of control with their spending, especially with celeb actors & studio execs. If they reined that in & fixed that part of their business model first, and still have trouble turning a profit maybe then I would feel more inclined to support their cause. As it stands, they don’t have a leg to stand on with their current argument.

      • Visitor [Join Now]
        moviecrazy [visitor]
        I work for VBG. To find out why this is important, click here.

        If you think redbox is just out for Joe consumer you are nuts. They are another corporate giant trying to get in make as much money as possible then get out leaving a wake of disaster in the movie pipeline.

        • Visitor [Join Now]
          acdahl [visitor]

          Partially correct. They definitely want to maximize their profits. You would be an idiot not to want that as a business. But it is ridiculous to think they want to destroy the movie business. If they kill the industry, they kill themselves. I believe Redbox is a little more savvy than that.

          I don’t understand why some of you out there believe that there are only two outcomes; to stay the same or doomsday. That is such a shallow, limited view. To think a company would just want to destroy an industry where they are profitable is just plain stupid. they want to make a buck (and as many as possible), the same as the studio. Customers want to save a buck (or as many as possible). Everyone is right to think this way (studio, Rbox and consumer) and everyone is greedy to think this way. There will be a solution…eventually, but let’s not run around saying the sky is falling and the only solution is for Redbox to commit business hara-kiri.

  13. Visitor [Join Now]
    Raul De Anda [visitor]

    The reason I stop buying movies is because of the format. Use to buy vHS had to buy a Machine and Laser Movies came out had to buy a Laser Machine. And the DvDs came had to buy a DVD machine. And now Blue Ray DVD No Machine so what’s next. I guess HOB CINEMAX PAYPRE VEIW . If they stop made dvds

  14. Visitor [Join Now]
    moviecrazy [visitor]

    Face it, only white trash and losers actually “collect” movies. That’s about as smart as spending your money “collecting” beanie babies or happy meal toys.
    Get a life folks and start spending your money wisely.

  15. Visitor [Join Now]
    movierazy [visitor]

    The first time a movie comes out you can rent it for $1, then if you want to see it again in a few months, you can rent it again. By time you want to buy it, it’s $3 in the big pile at walmart.

    Full total price you pay: $5

    For everything else, there’s masterchar……. no.. wait… I can afford this in cash!

    • Member [Join Now]

      As I said in the previous post: Get off of here you piece of crap imposter! Get your own “original” name and quit using mine!

      • Member [Join Now]
        Mark [rb123456789]

        It would be simple enough for the board software to prohibit posters from using a name already taken by registered posters. The fact it doesn’t is a major shortcoming of the board. All I can think of is Michael doesn’t want to force posters to register and log in, and that serves little purpose except to cheapen the board.

        • Member [Join Now]

          That’s just it, you DO have to register and log in to post comments. Any email site or any other site I can think of NEVER lets a person register a name if it’s already taken! I mean that just makes no sense and is a major flaw on this site. The only way you can tell the difference is from the user image, but who really pays attention to that. I don’t know what Michael is thinking letting that happen. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great site and I appreciate all his hard work, but this is a major flaw!

        • Administrator
          Michael [administrator]

          Mark is correct in that you do not have to register or login to post comments here.

          It is very common for blog sites to not require registration to post comments, because that eliminates many comments from new users and can stifle conversation. Believe me, I have considered it many times, but have yet to find a major reason to force a user to have an account to comment. The childish folks tend to come and go in a matter of days, anyway, so they don’t matter much.

          As long as long-time users like you (Mark) and moviecrazy login, there really isn’t a problem, because those who know you will know the real you. Other passersby may not, but that doesn’t matter much anyway.

          Thanks for your comments, though, I truly value them and am always looking to improve things for all.

          • Member [Join Now]

            Well I don’t understand that then because I logged out and tried to post a comment and it wouldn’t let me. I wanted to check to see if Mark was right before I posted the previous comment. So how do you post a comment without being logged in? And how would it have a user name, wouldn’t if post as anonymous or something? This is the only blog I’ve ever been on so I really don’t know how most blogs work. Once again, I love your site and appreciate all your hard work in keeping this site going, I just don’t like other people with the same name making statements that totally contradict my views on subjects. Like this other Moviecrazy guy, he is totally against Redbox and I am totally for Redbox as I’m sure you know. I also see your point that people that know the real me would probably know It’s not me and the passersby wouldn’t really matter anyway but it just seems to me like it’s confusing for a lot of people. Also, I can’t count the times I would like to post a question or comment on a site or blog and It won’t let me because I’m not registered, in fact I can’t remember a single site that has let me. I guess I must be going to all the wrong sites! LOL!

          • Visitor [Join Now]
            hipocrite [visitor]
            I work with VBG. To find out why this is important, click here.

            Yeah, I truly value the Grammar Police, Childish Sexual humor and overall Crassness of a certain member here also!!! He is fighting the good fight so I say it is all right.

          • Administrator
            Michael [administrator]

            I just added the words [visitor] to the end of those not logged in. That terminology may change (get shorter, hopefully), but the idea will remain.

            Also, note that anonymous users comments’ have a white background, regular subscribers have a gray background, and Gold Members have a gold background. And, of course, my comments are red and Shane’s are yellow on the entries he writes.

            Hopefully this will help.

      • Visitor [Join Now]
        movierazy [visitor]

        I am the original movierazy! I’m the first one to use this name, ROTFLMAO.

        • Member [Join Now]

          I doubt that VERY much, I’ve been using this site for about 2 years and I’ve NEVER seen you comment on anything so nice try! If you were the original we’d have heard from you by now! ROTFLMAO also!!

          • Visitor [Join Now]
            movierazy [visitor]

            Still ROTFLMAO waiting for you to figure it out, remember what month this is.

          • Visitor [Join Now]
            acdahl [visitor]

            Actually, his name is one character different from yours. Still confusing, at first glance, but definitely a new name. There is another with the same name as you, but this guy is only slightly original.

          • Visitor [Join Now]
            MovieCrazy [visitor]

            Ok I’m not either of these other “moviecrazy”s but just wanted to see of I could post without logging in

          • Visitor [Join Now]
            movierazy [visitor]

            Trick or Treat!!!

            So hey, I really wasn’t using your username! And I was the first to use this one!

            Someone else had to figure it out, I was just razzing you for all the times you have hassled other people here over those 2 years you talk about. Get it? “razy”??? movie …. razy

            And I’m not the other guy who’s bugging you, but you bring that on yourself. Now you know how it feels on the other end. It was fun ROTFLMAO, so thanks for the entertainment.

            How hard can it be to check the userlist and if a registered user is using that name, let the poster know before the post is allowed. Of course my little demonstration shows that you can make a similar username to bypass that, but you have to be a little tricky to fool the human neurons.

            “movielazy” is open!

            It would be nice if Michael took out the duplicate [visitor] thing, kinda redundant and a bit lame since it already says “Visitor” right there on top. Should be a one line programming fix, just comment it out.

            And Michael, thanks for keeping the blog open for quick posts from people just passing by, I like it that way, adds to the diversity and keeps things lively so we don’t have to hear from the same posters over and over.

            Soon you will need to add one extra little box people fill in with one simple word (not a full on two word stupid overkill CAPTCHA please!). That will keep almost all the bots off the blog.

        • Member [Join Now]
          lakrow [jbromert]

          Curiouser and curiouser! What an interesting treat.

  16. Visitor [Join Now]
    moviecrazy [visitor]
    I work for VBG. To find out why this is important, click here.

    Quit using my name!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

  17. Member [Join Now]
    Hazmina [hazmina]

    I have never paid full price for any movie except for one in particular that I absolutly had to have! I usually buy my movies from pawn shops where I can get them as cheap as $2 per DVD or I wait for BLACK FRIDAY and load up on movies from Best Buy or Walmart when they are like $3 each brand new. If you don’t know what black friday is you should visit they have a ton of info on black friday! But any how, redbox will always be great because who can beat paying $1 to rent and watch a new release? No One!

  18. Visitor [Join Now]
    MovieCrazy [visitor]

    It looks like entering a false email and random name does work.
    Let’s all post our comments as MovieCrazy and really drive everyone nuts :)

  19. Visitor [Join Now]
    Chris N. [visitor]

    I rent either from RedBox or elsewhere to determine whether a film is worth owning / seeing again, let alone several times.
    One form of DVD I’ve enjoyed purchasing lately are Blu-Ray & DVD & Digital Copy included all for $15 because I expect to use each version at least once. I can also watch the Blu Ray version, and then allow my children to use the DVD version on our old players in other rooms.
    Renting and then buying may cost more on the discs I purchase, but it’s a willing hedge over betting $30+ on a movie I’ve never seen and may really dislike.

  20. Visitor [Join Now]
    joseph [visitor]

    i own zero dvds.i currently use redbox and netflix and dvdplay prior to that used hollywood videos mvp program now hollywood has a shoddy program that they say is kool as if-i know the mvp program usually had to wait 6 weeks which i didnt mind…prior to that generally rented a ton when hollywood video had rent one get a rental free as for cds have round 1000.i generally dont ever watch a film twice with rare hollywood video closed down so then i switched to the box’s and is great for older and obscure and redbox for new ones.

  21. Member [Join Now]

    Will the real moviecrazy please stand up!

  22. Visitor [Join Now]
    justme [visitor]

    Why buy when you can rent for a dollar!

  23. Visitor [Join Now]
    hipocrite [visitor]
    I work with VBG. To find out why this is important, click here.

    I live in a town of around 40,000 and the last Mom & Pop store shut their doors.

    There are no Blocks, Galleries, Hollywoods or Familys for over 25 miles.

    There are now only 10 RB and the library.

    There is article coming out in the paper regarding the Library being inundated with requests to carry more movies, but they are only allowed a certain budget.

    If you want catalog you will have to drive 25 miles, be hit with another monthly service fee to get older movies or spend way more on cable.

    I think RBs destruction that is happening in my neighborhood will soon be the norm.

    It’s too bad that we are prematurely losing these stores, especially the Mom and Pop that was only charging $1/week catalog and only $2.49 for New Releases.

    The Movie Gallery that came in lasted only 1 1/2 years and they were charging $1/per day on new releases as a test market.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      greg [visitor]
      I work with VBG. To find out why this is important, click here.

      That is amazing. No place to get catalog. That must mean there are over 50,000 catalog movies out of the market place.

      That library will be screwed.

      Good luck getting catalog unless you want to add another monthly bill in this tight economy!!!

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      [visitor] [visitor] [visitor] [visitor]

      Oh the problems with wordpress plugins instead of doing your own programming :)

      Don’t you think that the “mom and pops” could just change their business model? Change the sign outside and open a new business? Or maybe they shut down at that location and moved to a new location with a new type of business?

      I don’t think any good entrepreneur quits. They move on, go to the next thing and continue. So I wouldn’t worry so much about them.

      And good dependable trustworthy employees usually go with them to the new thing.

      What you should be worried about is all the socialist marxist crap about to be foisted upon you by the all wonderful Bama and his lame followers. All those stupid people who think the government is there to hand them everything.

      Enslavement will follow, so get off your duff and do something about that.

  24. Member [Join Now]

    Dont forget the REAL reason why people stop Buying DVD’s…copying software is so readily available nowadays that people can simply have the best of both worlds…Rent the DVD, copy it, and now, VIOLA…they Own it! …of course, I don’t do this. Piracy is illegal… lol.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      slidecage [visitor]

      they need to do a new priacy is bad ad… have johnny depp slam his boat into someone house and go you do know piracy is bad : )

      that would be a funny ad …. cost a lot but be funny

      like they are really going to toss you in prison for making illegal copies. they dont have enough room now for the killers…. Yea lets let the killers go free and toss that dude who copied Barney loves you in prison….