RedBox Instant & The Hobbit

RedboxI have rented the occasional film from those ubiquitous Redbox kiosks. They are a very low cost alternative to renting and generally pretty convenient.The only problem with their not being digital is that sometimes titles have run out.

Online rental services (Amazon, Vudu, CinemaNow, iTunes) stubbornly refuse to move their prices down so if you want the convenience of not returning a DVD, you’ll pay generally three to four times more than at Redbox. This is only funny because leaving physical media was supposed to save the consumer money – what with a DVD not having to be printed or shipped.

Redbox’s wonderful business model enabled them to bring out a streaming service to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. For $8 a month, you get unlimited streaming AND 4 FREE DVD rentals. As with Netflix, you can sign up to try a month for FREE.

I have been meaning to try the Redbox Instant service for a while now but, honestly, I never run out of things to watch on Netflix and when the family is home, we watch Hulu Plus. There are also very few movies I rent as I’m always scoring FREE movie tickets (often by buying a low-priced Blu-Ray which gives me yet still more to watch).

The HobbitThat all changed with Redbox’s awesome promotion on May 22nd (sorry it was one day only). They offered a FREE online rental of The Hobbit to new and existing customers. This promotion got me to sign up for Redbox Instant. I hadn’t purchased The Hobbit when it came out because I am pretty sure that they will run a promotion of ‘buy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and get a FREE ticket to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ sometime this fall. I also tend to wait for a decent price drop and Best Buy’s quarterly ‘Upgrade & Save’ promotion.

I was surprised at how many films Redbox has available. However they are exceptionally heavy on direct-to-video titles of the 90s and early 2000s as well as some public domain titles.Still there are plenty of gems to be had here that are NOT on Netflix. Netflix still has them outgunned on variety by at least ten times as many titles.

When Ray Harryhausen passed away recently, Netflix had none of his films available to watch. Redbox has The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Redbox also has Gettysburg.

As with Amazon Prime’s early days, Redbox Instant has a lot of duplicate listings. They also have very limited categories (action/adventure goes on forever with little to no way to narrow it down). Navigation is pretty awful (especially on the Xbox 360 where it is dreadful) and many of their titles have a generic box.

Even searching through a category isn’t particularly helpful. Redbox appears to have only single categories for films so many of their science fiction movies are actually classified as action/adventure for example.

Their search function is functional and you can search on an actor BUT it only works if they’ve coded that film as starring that actor. Searching on Cushing on my PC brings up 19 results, only 7 of which star Peter Cushing. Searching on Peter Cushing brings up 143 results. None of those results include Arabian Adventure, which he stars in.

Be careful as Redbox also has some films available for streaming online that cost money (like Bride of Frankenstein) a la Amazon vs. Amazon Prime. It is clear that Redbox Instant is in its infancy but those four DVD credits essentially reduce the cost to less than $3 a month and you can’t beat that.