Waning Movie Rentals Could Signal Beginning Of The End For Flicks In Physical Form

I used to love driving to Blockbuster Video to pick out a horror film for scary movie nights in high school with my pals, perusing the aisles and deciding whether or not we really needed a bajillion-pound box of Raisinets. But although physical movies are still more popular than digital, Blockbuster is a ghost of its former self and rentals are on the wane in general, which could mean the beginning of the end for all kinds of disc rentals.

A new consumer survey by the NPD group says the total number of movies rented by Americans in the first six months of 2012 declined 10% from just a year ago. Physical rentals of DVDs and Blu-ray discs took a 17% dive, but they still make up the bulk of rentals overall at 62%, with kiosks like Redbox as the most popular option for movie night.

But as physical rentals are declining, video-on-demand online rentals are slowly growing, at a 5% increase.  Netflix is going gangbusters in the digital arena with 66% of all the total rentals there, followed by video-on-demand from pay TV services.

Physical rentals should be safe, for now, buffeted by the popularity of easy-to-use kiosks. However the lure of not having to get in your car and drive anywhere to get a movie is well, an alluring one. And that way no one is tempted to get that bajillion-pound box of Raisinets that don’t all get eaten and end up smushed into the carpet by your annoying little brother.

Movie rentals down 10% in first half of year [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. HomerSimpson says:

    HSI providers are absolutely SALIVATING over those overages fees they’ll be implementing.

    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      Yeah, netflix is a boon for Verizon et al when it comes to overages.

    • Jawaka says:

      Comcast dropped their monthly caps altogether a few month back.

      • Rockfish says:

        Comcast has NOT dropped their monthly caps …

        [quote from my Comcast account page]
        Note: enforcement of the 250GB data consumption threshold is currently suspended.

        Comcast has suspended their monthly data cap enforcement while they implement their new Bandwidth Plan with a 300MB cap & overage charges for exceeding that new cap. http://goo.gl/dPB68

  2. nodaybuttoday says:

    On Demand videos have gotten a lot cheaper than they use to be, so if I don’t have to leave my house to rent a move I prefer not to. Netflix’s instant movies aren’t so great, you don’t typically get very many new releases. If they did I would go back to Netflix but ever since they split up the instant and DVDs, I ended my subscription and just do OnDemand and Starz.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Netflix never was big on new releases. I have it because I’m very behind on movies, and it also has old TV shows I like to re-watch and some extremely obscure material. I hit Redbox for new releases, or once in a while, Family Video. They rent games too and seem to be doing quite a healthy business in my town. Of course, now that BB and Hollywood Video et. al. are gone, they have little competition.

  3. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    OT, but for 2016 I’d really like to see the Olympics dump NBC for Netflicks streaming of every event – live and taped. In 2016 streaming and video-on demand will dominate as network TV declines.

  4. Captain Spock says:

    Last night I saw a film, as I recall it was a Horror Film.

  5. redskull says:

    Physical rentals may be down elsewhere, but not where I live. There’s a Family Video 3 or 4 blocks away that is positively PACKED. Every time I drive by it, the parking lot is full. Even on weekdays. They must be doing something right.

    • fatediesel says:

      Yeah, I have a friend that lives near a Family Video and every time I got to his house I see at least 10 cars in the Family Video parking lot. I don’t really understand why but Family Video seems to have thrived while most video stores have shut down.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        They rent games also, and they are very pleasant to deal with. Maybe that’s why. I hope they stick around. I still like to go browse around in the store once in a while for a movie.

    • thomwithanh says:

      I used to live in a small town about half an hour from Buffalo, NY. Redbox actually REMOVED two out of three of their kiosks in various supermarkets around town (I think the Walmart one is still operational) because they weren’t making enough money. If I had to gander a guess as to why, I’d point the finger at Family Video… seemed to be packed every time I drove by. Constantly getting coupons in the mail for free rentals, or 50% off all rentals for two weeks/ one month it’s no wonder Redbox couldn’t compete with them – I rented the first three seasons of the Big Bang Theory for $3 per series, IIRC, most movies were $1 for five nights, and that was without the 50% off coupons.

    • thomwithanh says:

      Also, Family Video wasn’t subject to the 30 day waiting period on new releases like Redbox was…

      Their changeable sign used to say things like:

      “Harry Potter 7 – Family Video’s got it, Redbox doesn’t”

      “Twilight – Family Video’s got it, Time Warner doesn’t”

    • NotEd says:

      The Family Video near me always seems busy on weekends too. I’ve not joined, but I have bought a number of used DVDs from them and I always found them friendlier and more helpful then the local Blockbuster.
      Before Blockbuster closed, that is.

  6. frank64 says:

    I use streaming when it is one fixed monthly costs, but when you get to a per use payment system the price is much higher than the DVD alternatives. The cable shows I watch are 3-4 per stream, meaning one show a night would cost me around $100 a month. The shows I like to watch that are not available to stream cost less than $1 per show, sometimes .50. One disk has 2-4 episodes on them and I can watch at least one show a night for $20 from Netflix.

    I buy some of the shows not available as streaming used cheaper than streaming, I can then share them with others or sell them. As with all e-media, the consumers lose control of what they buy. Netflix also loses control because they also only buy license rights, they lose them and they can’t offer the show anymore. They buy the DVD’s they own them.

    One we don’t have a choice anymore, we are going to all end up paying much more for our movies and books. I save so much on books by buying used, or at least a discounted price, we lose the physical media we lose a lot.

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I hope the industry remembers that not everyone has broadband or access to broadband, or access to cable or fios. There are areas of the country where you can use dial up or satellite internet, and only satellite for TV as there are too many mountains and too much distance between you and the transmitter tower. DVD’s are a nice thing to have when you can’t just push a button to stream a show or movie.

    • frank64 says:

      Besides not having it, many cable companies are limiting your internet usage, often to restrict competition. I have Verizon DSL and have not had any problems so far, but you never know what they might do.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      This is why I still buy DVDs (albeit from the $5 bin at Walfarts). If my internetz goes down, I can pop in a disc. :)

  8. DuckNCover says:

    Until they are unable to remotely remove my right to view something I bought, I will always prefer physical copies of books and movies.

    • luxosaucer13 says:

      Unfortunately, you’re not actually buying the movie, you’re buying a LICENSE to use the blu-ray or DVD. That license can be revoked at any time, for any reason, and with increasing numbers of blu-ray players that have to connect to the internet to do “updates” before you can play certain discs, the media company can effectively de-authorise your blu-ray copy of whatever movie whenever they want.

      Same holds true for computer software and video games (used on consoles with internet connectivity) that are purchased on disc. Read the terms and conditions of your favourite blu-ray or game if you don’t believe me.

      You’re right about physical books though. You buy a printed book and you own it; no amount of technology can take that away, short of “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads” burning the pages away, or something of that order.

  9. Joedragon says:

    shelton fireworks has ad’s saying no gimmicks as the other stores have that buy get X free BS and other gimmick loaded ad’s.

  10. rdclark says:

    I care a lot about picture and audio quality, and always rented discs (and HD-DVD or Blu-ray Discs as soon as Netflix got them). When Neflix decided to price themselves out of the physical disc business, I was worried.

    Then I tried the HD rentals available from Amazon through TiVo, and was very pleasantly surprised. Amazon downloads the entire movie to your TiVo’s hard drive, resulting in a high-bitrate copy mostly free of compression artifacts, and of course there are no bandwidth issues. Audio is still just DD5.1, but acceptable for a rental. They have brand-new releases, too. Price is steep — $4.99 unless there’s a special offer, like the ones often available on Kindles, or a weekly sale — but if you want to rent a new release of a high-profile movie at near-Blu-ray quality, this is a good bet.

    Oddly, though, you can’t watch Amazon Prime videos through your TiVo.

  11. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    Strange how this isn’t stopping Redbox from bringing a whole bunch of their kiosks to Canada. I guess their MO is that Blockbuster’s already gone up here, as has Rogers Video. Why not grab the few folk who will still rent a DVD? Of course there is that matter of having a credit card, which the kiddies won’t like. But their loss, I guess.

  12. SilverBlade2k says:

    One way for rental places to compete is to do away with ‘late fees’ entirely, which is why I’m sure a lot of people switched to Netflix for physical rentals.

    Late fees are completely annoying and they make the experience less enjoyable. Rogers Video had a 1 or 2 day viewing period, and it took 6 months to get to the 7-day rental selection. To me, that’s a joke and very consumer-unfriendly.

  13. flychinook says:

    Video stores going away? I shall mourn their passing in the same way I mourned the passing of the horse-drawn carriage. Which is to say, not at all.

  14. kaleberg says:

    Another thing to consider is public libraries. With the economy down and video rental stores closing left and right, more and more libraries have been building up their VHS & DVD collections. Our local library has an amazing collection, especially if you still have a VHS player. The DVD section looks smaller, but that’s because DVDs are smaller. We’ve been moving more and more to digital downloads, but we know a lot of people who just get out their library cards.

  15. hexx says:

    You mean video stores still exist? All of the ones near me, within a 20 mile radius, closed years ago.

    • AzCatz07 says:

      I have three within 5 miles of my house. I don’t go in them anymore, but all three seem to be doing just fine.

  16. MPD01605 says:

    I’m curious if it’s actually a decline in physical rentals or if there’s an increase in both (due to the low cost of renting a Redbox etc) and the sample didn’t represent that. I guess we’ll have to see a few more surveys.
    I’ve rented more movies digitally in the past year than I ever have, but I’ve also used Redbox a lot more, too, which also seems busier than ever.

  17. soj4life says:

    Physical media will still exist for years to come because broadband speeds needed to have true HD quality do not exist for most american households. Along with that, companies like netflix do not have the capacity to handle those true hd speeds. In addition to that, 4k is the next step in video formats and the sheer size of one movie will have your cable modem blinking away for days.

  18. Gnuwave says:

    Sadly, American studios are doing everything they can to kill rentals. Many of the movies I rent from Netflix are actually labeled “Rental” (i.e. special features removed, etc.), in some vain attempt by the studios to get me to purchase the movie. I don’t purchase movies and never will.

    And attention movie studios: If I rent one of your movies on a Blu-ray disc, I DON’T need to see a 5-minute commercial extolling the virtues of Blu-ray.

  19. IndyJaws says:

    Did you really need a bajillion-pound box of Raisinets? Of course not. Goobers? Of course!