Watching movies has moved from the movie theatre to the living room. There are now several options for streaming videos to your computer or TV. There are also easy ways to rent DVDs.
Netflix, Red Box, Amazon, Blockbuster, Hulu ..... these are all major players in the growing appetite of viewers who want to watching movies and streaming videos to their computer, television, and mobile devises.
Netflix is the granddaddy of them all. They have two services: DVD rentals through the mail and streaming services that let you watch movies and recorded television shows on your computer, television, or mobile device. To view Netflix streaming movies on your television you need a way for your television to access the Internet. Many of the newest televisions and Blu-ray players have built-in Internet connectivity. You still need Internet service from an Internet Service Provider like Time-Warner or Embarq and, depending on how you hook up, you may also need a wireless router. The real beauty of Netflix is that you can use a gaming console like a Wii, PlayStation or Xbox to access their movies. Over 50% of Netflix customers play their streaming movies and television shows through a game machine.
Other services, like Hulu Plus and Blockbuster also offer unlimited streaming movie services, but most of them are slightly more expensive than Netflix. Wal-Mart just announced that they will enter the streaming movie industry, but at this time, they, like Apple's iTunes, don't have a service that lets you watch an unlimited number of movies. Instead, they offer movies that you can rent or purchase and stream to your computer or television. You can also rent movies directly from your cable TV provider, but they are usually considerably more expensive.
If you happen to be an Amazon user, they have one of the best deals currently available for streaming movies through their Amazon Prime program. Amazon Prime membership is $80 a year. For that you get unlimited free two-day shipping on any purchases or one day shipping for $3.99 an item. You also get unlimited instant streaming of 5,000 movies and TV shows at no extra cost. If you make regular purchases at Amazon, it's a great deal.
However, it is more difficult to get your Amazon, Wal-Mart, iTunes, or Hulu content to your television. As mentioned earlier, if you have a new TV or Blu-ray player you can use that plus your Internet connection to stream the movies. You can also connect your computer to your television. (How to do that is a whole other column.) Most of these services do not yet support access through a gaming device. An easy way, however, to stream movies is with a set top box. These are very easy to use. There are a wide variety of boxes available like the Logitech Revue with Google TV, Apple TV, and the Roku box. These are small boxes that attach to your TV and to your Internet service. They range in price from about $70 to $100.
If you are not interested in streaming movies to your television or if you have a poor Internet connection, you can still rent movies and TV shows on DVD. This is the second part of the service that Netflix offers. If, like me, you aren't happy with Netflix's enormous price increase, you will be looking for a new place to rent movies. Although most large Blockbuster and other rental stores have closed, there are still places to rent DVDs. Blockbuster has a DVD rental program similar to the one Netflix offers. Blockbuster also has kiosks where you can rent movies for $1 a night. Red Box is the big daddy of DVD kiosks. Red Box also charges $1 per movie per night, but there are many more Red Boxes available, especially in our area.
These kiosks are free-standing units that can be found in the entry of stores and/or outside stores and gas stations. Red Boxes can be found locally at Lowes Foods, Wal-Mart, Harris Teeter, and Kangaroo Express. It seems that every store contracts for these units separately rather than as a chain. I say this because the Food Lion on Highway 22 in Carthage has a Red Box while the Food Lion in Pinecrest Plaza has a Blockbuster.
To rent movies at Red Box you simply need a credit card which is charged $1 a night. The selection of movies is excellent with many movies appearing in Red Boxes as soon as they are released on DVD. You don't have to run around town to find the movie you want. You can go online to www.redbox.com, see which Red Box in your area has the movie you want and reserve it online. It will be waiting for you when you get to that Red Box to pick it up. Using a Red Box kiosk is very easy. It has a touch-screen with large icons that are pretty self-explanatory. When you are done with your movie you can return it to any Red Box. If you keep the DVD for 25 days, your credit card is charged $25 and the disk is yours to keep. The Blockbuster kiosk works in a similar fashion.
There is no doubt that going to the movie theatre can be fun, but in today's world, there are plenty of other ways to see a good movie. With movies today, you have a lot of decisions to make. Even after you choose how and where you will get your movie, you will still be faced with the really big decision -- which movie you want to see.