Where’d My Movies Go?
Greg is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
The gurus have been telling us for some time now that the way we watch movies is changing. Just like VHS tapes moved to the bargain bin to make room for DVDs, video stores are closing their doors while mysterious movie vending boxes crop up in front of grocery stores. The future is online…all our movies will soon be in digital form…everything you could wish for will be available at the push of a button.
Blockbuster Video, in an effort to ride this wave instead of getting buried by it, responded in 2008 by establishing its own online streaming service. The company’s adjustments weren’t enough to keep it afloat, however, and last year Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) picked up Blockbuster from the auction block. Movie Gallery, Blockbuster’s primary competitor in the area of traditional movie stores, went bankrupt in 2010, leaving entire swaths of the country with nary a destination when that sudden craving for a Superman movie marathon strikes.
Which brings us to the current situation: Redbox (owned by Coinstar (NASDAQ: CSTR)) is certainly a convenient, cheap, and fun solution when we want to watch the latest rom-com. And a one-click rental on Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) Instant Video platform couldn’t possibly be more convenient. But neither of these services yet provides what we, as movie customers, wish we had: A one-stop location for any movie that strikes our fancy.
At the moment, it seems that movie lovers are stuck in a no-man’s land. Here’s what I mean: Suppose you want to watch the hottest new release, but you get to the Redbox on your way home later than you expect. There’s a good chance it will be sold out, and then you get to choose whether to drive around town to three other boxes or just pick something else to watch.
How about a less recent release that you haven’t gotten a chance to see yet? If Redbox has stopped carrying it, your best bet is one of the online streaming sources. But while Amazon’s selection is vast in terms of numbers, the most popular recent films seem to quickly move to purchase-only form. $15.99 is rather steep for movie night.
The classics, then? You’ll probably only find your favorites if they are the ones widely recognized to be the best of the past years. For example, at this moment My Fair Lady, one of the greatest musicals of all time, is unavailable for rental from either Amazon Instant Video or Blockbuster.com, the online service maintained by Dish Network. Good thing I own the DVD.
Because digital video is such a new field, the movie studios are wary of allowing their entire output to be online at once. As they dip their toes in the water, we the customers are limited to whichever films they want to try out on the market.
Used to be there was a big store on the corner with a huge stock of videos—new releases, recent favorites, and classics from all different studios. Now, we have vending machines with very limited quantities and online services that are still laboratories for number crunchers.
Will the online services take off? It seems a little inevitable—the first service that can truly offer access to any movie we can think of will have a huge advantage over competitors. But when will that happen? Is it around the corner or years away? Or is there a completely different solution? It seems like there’s a vacuum here in terms of movie availability, and we movie lovers are keeping a sharp eye out for someone to figure out how to fill it.
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