Rob Pegoraro says why bother?
- The idea of renting movies online seems a lot less silly than it did two years ago, when a site called Movielink debuted.
….CinemaNow and Movielink now offer better downloading options that reduce or eliminate the lengthy wait to transfer a movie to a computer.
But they still carry too few titles at too high a price. There’s very little here to lure anybody from ordinary movie-rental stores, DVD-by-mail services like Netflix, or cable and satellite pay-per-view options.
Both CinemaNow and Movielink look and work alike in some respects. You must run Windows to watch anything at either site. Both require loading their own download-management software as well, but Movielink is more annoying to use — the site can’t even be viewed in any browser but Internet Explorer and was agonizingly slow.
Forget using either site without a broadband Internet account — these movies weigh in at 500 or more megabytes apiece. Although you can start watching movies before they’ve finished downloading, that still involves a wait of at least a few minutes and as much as an hour, depending on your connection. (Over a 608-kbps digital subscriber line, “Finding Nemo” took 2 hours and 22 minutes to finish downloading.)
….These sites’ rental rates start at $2.99 for up to 48 hours of viewing — the clock starts ticking when you first begin watching, not when the download completes — but all the flicks I rented cost $3.99 or $4.99 and allowed 24 hours of use.
CinemaNow offers a few other pricing choices. You can sign up for $9.95 or $29.95 “Premium Pass” monthly subscriptions that include unlimited rentals; the more expensive plan adds access to an “After Dark” collection of adult movies. The site also sells 30 rather obscure titles as so-called permanent downloads — “Manilow Live!” can be yours for $14.99 if you have a hankering for the syrupy singer’s work.
You can’t copy any of these downloads to a CD or DVD for viewing on a DVD player or move them to another computer. If you own a laptop with a TV-compatible connector, such as a composite-video or S-Video jack, you can plug it into your set for viewing on a bigger screen, but otherwise each rental stays welded to your hard drive.
….Both CinemaNow and Movielink suffer from a pathetically thin selection — 854 and 747 titles as of Friday afternoon. Since many movies are made available to these sites only for limited periods before moving to cable and satellite TV (for example, “Finding Nemo” was no longer available after Saturday from either service) those numbers fluctuate over time.
Unless you’re looking for a movie from the past few years, the odds weigh heavily against you finding it on either site. Half of the titles I considered renting — for instance, “Heathers,” “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Office Space” — weren’t available.
….Movielink’s chief executive, Jim Ramo, explained that until the late ’90s, studios didn’t buy Internet distribution rights, which means the site must negotiate with individual copyright holders for each movie. Ramo noted that he can’t provide “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” because the rights to the song “Twist and Shout,” which plays in one scene [but it’s a pivotal scene!], would cost too much to obtain.
Who would want to put up with services as dysfunctional as this? It’s hard to imagine.
….Until they learn from the example of the music industry — offer their content at a discount online, but at a quality comparable to what you’d get in the store — this online video-rental business isn’t going anywhere. [Washington Post]
Maybe if you were somewhere remote – but with a broadband connection – then this might make sense. Otherwise, what’s the point? The movie fools would appear to be even more stupid than the music idiots.