David Artiss

A comparison of the UK’s film rental market


Film rental has always been popular. However, the days of perusing the shelves of your local Blockbuster are now well gone as people turn online to get their fix.

LoveFilm, now part of Amazon, has also undergone a transformation as the parent company moves away from physical disk rental and towards the subscription streaming services that Netflix offers. LoveFilm still exists but in a more streamlined service, mainly targeted at getting more people to sign up for their Prime streaming.

I’m not going to look at subscription streaming services today, particularly as their film choices are often a lot slimmer, with many more recent films not included. No, the way for any movie buff to go is to rent – either get if through the post or downloaded.

For the online option, I review the choices, their prices and the platforms they’re available for. The 3 movies I will provide details on will be Thor: The Dark World (just out), The Wolverine (out for a bit but there have been some rental restriction on this in the past) and The Wedding Singer (to check availability of an older film).

For rental by post, I’ll be checking if my film choices are stocked and what their subscription rates are (some used to offer by-disc payment in the past but now they have a fixed subscription, for which you get a certain number during the month). Many other retailers offered postal rental but many of these were “powered” by one of the bigger names, such as LoveFilm. They’ve now gone (Tesco, WHSmith, for example, all offered such services), leaving just two big companies remaining.

Renting Online

Amazon Instant Video

You can peruse their list from the Amazon website, buy and then watch on any device that you’re signed into. You’ll need something with a compatible app but there’s an extensive list of compatible devices – all the consoles are included, along with phones, tablets and even brands of Smart TV and Blu-Ray players. You can also watch via the Amazon website.

Depending on the device, Amazon supports up to 1080p (HD) streaming with 5.1 Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Plus audio.

  • Thor: The Dark world is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wolverine is £2.49 in SD and £3.49 in HD.
  • The Wedding Singer is not available for rental but can be watched as part of Prime Instant Video.

Conditions of play – Once bought you have 30 days to make use of the rental. Once you start watching the film it will expire 48 hours later. You can stream is directly to any device or download it to up to two difference devices (so you can watch it offline). I’m assuming that this later option won’t be available on some devices, such as TVs, that don’t have storage.

Rating – a good choice of viewing platforms, very good prices and a huge choice.

Sky Store

Sky Store is available on PC/Mac, NOW TV box, Roku & YouView. If you are an existing Sky TV customer you can access Sky Store on your connected Sky+HD box.

Unfortunately, only standard definition output is available and there are no details of audio capability. However, I can see from forum content that Sky Store certainly doesn’t offer Dolby Digital output. Films can’t be downloaded for offline viewing.

  • Thor: The Dark world is £4.49 in SD.
  • The Wolverine is £4.49 in SD.
  • The Wedding Singer is not available.

Conditions of play – Once bought you have 30 days to make use of the rental. Once you start watching the film it will expire 48 hours later. Once you start watching a movie, it will be available to pause and play on that device only.

Rating – considering this is coming from Sky it severely lacks features. No HD availability and a limited catalogue, let alone basic audio output and restricted playback devices (including no tablet compatibility). To charge HD prices too for SD playback is less than impressive.

Video Unlimited

Run by Sony, Video Unlimited is often the name of the playback service, whereas the rentals can be made via the PlayStation Store on the PS3 or PS4 and via Sony Entertainment Network on their Smart TVs or online.

Videos are downloaded rather than streamed and can be done so on any of their consoles, as well as phones, tablets and their range of smart TVs. To play on a PC you need to install a separate application to browse and playback. HD rental is available, as is 4K and 3D.

  • Thor: The Dark world is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wolverine is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wedding Singer is £2.49 in SD and £3.49 in HD.

Conditions of play – Once bought you have 30 days to make use of the rental. Once you start watching the film it will expire 24 hours later.

Rating – the only service to offer 3D films and one of only 2 that have The Wedding Singer in HD, it’s reasonably priced too. Device availability is reasonable, especially if you’re a Sony user. The only downside is that narrow 24 playback window.

Blinkbox

Owned by Tesco, you get the additional bonus of being able to earn Clubcard points on any purchase.

Blinkbox films can be watched on any computer, Xbox 360, PS3, Samsung Smart TVs, tablets and assorted other devices.

  • Thor: The Dark world is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wolverine is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wedding Singer is £2.49 in SD only.

Conditions of play – As with Amazon, once bought you have 30 days to make use of the rental. Once you start watching the film it will expire 48 hours later. However, no details are available as to whether rentals can be downloaded for offline viewing.

Rating – Reasonably priced but lacking playback options. Most people will want to watch on their TV and, for that, you need either a modern Samsung TV or a last-generation console.

EE Film Store

Run by EE, Film Store films can be watched on phones, tablets and your computer.

Unfortunately, HD movies are not available and there are no details on audio capabilities. Both streaming and downloading of the movie is available.

  • Thor: The Dark World is £3.49 in SD
  • The Wolverine is £3.99 in SD
  • The Wedding Singer is not available

Conditions of play – timescales for how long you have to watch a rental are given, per movie, at the time of rental. You usually have 30 days to watch a rental, however.

Rating – Poor. Basic definition and audio. At least they allow downloading. Prices are okay-ish but the website is not particularly user friendly and playback devices are limited.

iTunes

Films rented from iTunes can only be played through that application so is limited to Windows and any Apple device. However, their store is neatly laid out with plenty of technical information about the film. Films are downloaded rather than streamed, so you have to wait for that process to complete before you can watch.

  • Thor: The Dark world is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wolverine is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wedding Singer is £2.49 in SD only and £3.49 in HD.

Conditions of play – Once bought you have 30 days to make use of the rental. Once you start watching the film it will expire 48 hours later. You can transfer the film between devices during the rental period. Find out more.

Rating – Good choice, reasonably priced and good quality downloads. If you’re married to Apple devices then this will probably be where you turn to automatically anyway. For everybody else their restricted platforms may be the big problem.

Google Play

Although mainly of benefit to Android phone and tablet users, Google Play is also accessible via their website where films can be browsed, purchased and watched. The recently released Chromecast from Google will add Google Play to your TV.

Video will be streamed on mobile devices and the bit rate will adjust depending on your bandwidth.

Depending on which device you view Google Play on initially will determine if the HD version of any film is available – if the device’s screen is not big enough only the SD version will be available to rent.

  • Thor: The Dark world is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wolverine is £3.49 in SD and £4.49 in HD.
  • The Wedding Singer is £2.49 in SD only and £3.49 in HD.

Conditions of play – Once bought you have 30 days to make use of the rental. Once you start watching the film it will expire 48 hours later.

Rating – Much the same as iTunes with a good choice and reasonably priced. However, also like iTunes, this is an option very much for those married to Android, although that now includes the bargain Chromecast. Having said that, you can also watch them on your computer via the Google Play website so it has some more flexibility that iTunes.

Conclusion

If you’re an Apple user (particularly if you own Apple TV) then iTunes is probably the easiest solution. For Android users, Google Play is an excellent choice, particularly if you own a Chromecast.

For everybody else, it’s a toss-up between Music Unlimited and Amazon Instant Video, I’d say. Amazon has the edge with playback and a cheaper price for quite recent releases, but if you’re a Sony owner then the convenience of Music Unlimited, plus its availability of 4K and 3D films, may put that ahead.

Me? Well I have a LOT of Sony hardware but I’m still going with Amazon – they have a larger range of accessible platforms to watch from. However, it’s a close thing.

Renting by Post

LOVEFiLM by Post

Whereas LOVEFiLM offered a number of subscription options the new LOVEFiLM by Post offers just one. First of all you need an Amazon Prime membership, which is £79 a year. After that you pay a £6.99 a month subscription to receive unlimited discs, two at a time.

  • Thor: The Dark World was available as DVD, Blu-Ray and 3D Blu-Ray.
  • The Wolverine was available as DVD and Blu-Ray.
  • The Wedding Singer was available as DVD and Blu-Ray.

LOVEFiLM offer a 30 day trial.

Cinema Paradiso

In comparison to LOVEFiLM’s single subscription option, Cinema Paradiso offer 6, ranging from £6.98 a month for 3 discs a month to £22.98 a month for unlimited discs, four at a time.

The subscription which matches LOVEFiLM’s, unlimited two a time, is £11.98. This equates to £143.76 a year. That compares to LOVEFiLM’s£162.88. However that DOES include their Prime service.

However, if you’re happy with the base 3 disc a month package then that’s just £83.76 a year – a substantial saving on LoveFilm.

  • Thor: The Dark World was available as DVD, Blu-Ray and 3D Blu-Ray.
  • The Wolverine was available as DVD, Blu-Ray and 3D Blu-Ray.
  • The Wedding Singer was available as DVD and Blu-Ray.

Cinema Paradiso offer a 14 day trial.

Conclusion

Both offer a similar service, although Paradiso offer a slightly better choice of availability of my particular film choices. What it comes down to, in the end, is the package you want.

If you already have Prime, or want it, and are happy with the 3 disc a month LOVEFiLM package then that is going to be your best choice. Otherwise, Cinema Paradiso is well worth a look, offering the same kind of choices that LoveFilm always used to.

Updated: Added Google Play

How did I forget Google Play? Now reviewed and added with the others with an appropriate updated to the conclusion.

Updated: Changed Sky Store

Sky Store have increased their prices (thanks Michael!) – updated review to reflect this


Categories: Product Review

Amazing tips for embedding YouTube videos » « Sony SGPCV5 Cover for Xperia Tablet Z

9 Comments

  1. Hi

    Just to inform skystore have increased their prices by £1 , now £4.49 sd, and £5.49 hd. Well I decided to stop using skystore now. Looking at alternatives.

  2. You don’t have to sign up to Amazon prime when you subscribe to lovefilm by post. That makes Cinema Paradiso more expensive for the same deal. I actually subscribe to Cinema Paradiso because of the bad reviews lovefilm by post receives, but if you’re judging a deal purely on monetary terms lovefilm is the better deal

  3. Yes, Lovefilm by Post is cheaper – £7.99/mth as a standalone service, £6.99/mth for Prime subscribers – but Cinema Paradiso may just be the better service. Some titles are available significantly earlier from Cinema Paradiso than via Lovefilm and this includes releases from all studios, not just Universal. Following the recent amalgamation with the main Amazon site, Lovefilm has also scrapped payment holidays, which Cinema Paradiso still offers (max. 12 weeks in any calendar year). Last but not least, you can save money on Cinema Paradiso subscriptions by paying 6 or 12 months in advance to receive 1 or 2 additional months free.

  4. thanks for the heads up on cinemaparadiso..seems like that’s the way to go for me.

  5. i would personally avoid cinemaparadiso

    i made the mistake of buying a gift subscription for a friend only to find that they need to register a payment method and that they would have monthly money limits frozen on their account each month

    it’s a complete joke, i paid for 6 months upfront, there is no need to have to register a payment method

    best of all? no refund

    avoid

    • I would have thought they’d need a payment method on file otherwise someone could just keep all the discs at the end of the period and refuse to return them. It kind of makes sense to me, but I can understand why you might have felt frustrated. But don’t let that put you off as they seem to be doing a great job otherwise.

  6. I have used pretty much every service out there over the years. Love Film used to be great, but the passion for movies has gone ever since it became part of the Amazon monster. In the end I gave Cinemaparadiso a try and have to say I’vebeen impressed. They’re faster at getting the DVDs out than Amazon, they reply to emails, and the selection does seem to have more depth than Amazon/Love Film. Something else that impressed me was their desire to get hold of films you wanted that they didn’t have listed. I made several suggestions and received prompt and friendly replies. Can you imagine Amazon doing that. Yes, you might get a reply but it would be from an automated system not a real person. So my recommendation would definitely to give Cinema Paradiso a try.

  7. Interesting to see what the comparison would be now that Amazon have hiked Lovefilm prices. I’ve just shifted from Lovefilm to Cinema Paradiso, so I’ll be in a better position to comment. I don’t think the price was massively different, but I was piqued by my £7.28 subscription being hiked to £11.99. On that basis, I thought I’d give their competition a try.

Talk to me!

Copyright © 2017 David Artiss

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Scroll Up
%d bloggers like this: