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Why online rental sites are letting down classic film fans

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With the news that Netflix is heading to the UK, we decided to take a look at the online offerings from current film rental sites, like Lovefilm and AceTrax. Are you disappointed by their poor back catalogues?

What we found was a selection of services that failed to offer a competent online experience. The range of films on offer and the lack of any real competitive pricing proves that the UK online rental scene is ripe for a shake-up. Hopefully, the American film rental service Netflix can do just this.

Where are the classics?

One of the most disappointing aspects of current online rental sites is the lack of a decent back catalogue. Think of a classic film, be it The Godfather, Citizen Kane, or Blade Runner, and it will probably be almost impossible to find them to rent online.

While most modern films are easily accessible, these older titles seem to have been pushed aside when it comes to streaming. In fact, when we searched for rentals of IMDB.com’s top 10 films of all time, only a couple were available on the sites we checked.

All these films are readily available as disc rentals, so why are movie fans being let down when it comes to online streaming?

The lack of classic film choice harks back to the bricks and mortar video stores of the 80s. It wasn’t too unusual to make a trip to your local rental store to take out Gremlins, only to come back disappointed with a VHS of Animal Olympics – either because someone else had taken it out or the store was too small to stock it.

In the world of digital distribution, these issues simply do not apply.

Stagnant rental pricing

Moreover, pricing is barely competitive across UK rental sites. Let’s say you wanted to watch Thor. It would cost you £3.49 to rent from AceTrax, BlinkBox, Sky Go and iTunes. Or £3.99 from Virgin Media.

Where’s the variance? Of course, sites like LoveFilm offer unlimited streaming on a monthly subscription of around a tenner, but its online selection is still poor. Thor wasn’t available to stream for example and, even if it was, LoveFilm’s pricing structure would also price it at £3.49.

If Netflix can offer titles at aggressive prices and under cut its competitors, it will hopefully stimulate this rather stagnant streaming pricing structure.

Online film rentals needs an upgrade

The fate of media consumption, be it film, music or games is undoubtedly moving towards a digital future. However, for this to succeed, we need more choice, both in content and price.

Even if you prefer your films on disc, and don’t mind waiting for a physical copy to pop through your letterbox, there’s no doubt that the future will be far more reliant on digital content.

With this in mind, online film rental services must improve and offer us a larger range of titles, especially when it comes to the classics. If they don’t, there’s chance that the rise of digital distribution could be set back, or people might simply turn to the darker corners of the internet to find their films for free.

Comments
Guest

I found The Godfather 1,2,3 and Blade Runner (Directors Cut) on blinkbox.com
I’m not sure you did your homework!

Profile photo of Jack Turner
Guest

Hi J,

You’re right, The Godfather is available to rent from Blinkbox, but it is one of the few sites to offer it. You can’t stream/download it from Lovefilm, or iTunes, or Acetrax. It would be great to see a little more consistency across all the rental sites, with a better selection of classic titles.

Renting from Blinkbox is fine, but if you’re a Lovefilm subscriber already, you might want to just stream it from them (which right now, isn’t an option).

Blade Runner on Blinkbox is offered as a purchase, not a rental.

Profile photo of customerservices_acetrax
Guest

Hi Jack,
We saw your blog titles ‘Why online rental sites are letting down classic film fans’ and wanted to point out that Acetrax Movies does offer classic movies such as The Godfather.  Here are some links to just a few of the classics we offer.

The Godfather
http://www.acetrax.com/Detail.aspx?channelId=44542493-C6CC-4306-9EBB-D4EEB2367587&contentID=cdfe88d4-2188-46a2-aa5d-3b3a462bc871

The Godfather pt2
http://www.acetrax.com/Detail.aspx?channelId=E32DC7BB-5179-4DF2-8176-C3E5E97EC0E9&contentID=e326ca95-7cfc-4d6b-896c-eb3b84664df9

The Godfather pt3
http://www.acetrax.com/Detail.aspx?channelId=E32DC7BB-5179-4DF2-8176-C3E5E97EC0E9&contentID=c41b7b89-f4b5-48fa-8f32-0a1b7cc7658c

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
http://www.acetrax.com/Detail.aspx?channelId=44542493-C6CC-4306-9EBB-D4EEB2367587&contentID=db0014fc-2cf8-4260-a8f0-4aad3cf3204e

True Grit
http://www.acetrax.com/Detail.aspx?channelId=44542493-C6CC-4306-9EBB-D4EEB2367587&contentID=f816aba2-2b0e-4ceb-9bed-9dd0365f1f1d

A Clockwork Orange
http://www.acetrax.com/Detail.aspx?channelId=44542493-C6CC-4306-9EBB-D4EEB2367587&contentID=e23da36d-3226-4342-9800-496e689dd36a

White Christmas
http://www.acetrax.com/Detail.aspx?channelId=CCCCA00B-2486-440A-8D06-537BDB41D344&contentID=f1afcfcc-e1ae-4715-b653-8d002a29531a

To Catch a Thief
http://www.acetrax.com/Detail.aspx?channelId=D0B00E86-FCCC-447D-92E3-1003655C3D0C&contentID=d4044177-c316-445b-ae69-6b31444a9345

In addition to this, we are constantly adding new movies and classics as part of the varied content mix we want to offer, we do not just focus new releases as we know out users tastes go beyond this.

I hope this clarifies our position but please feel free to get in touch if you have any more questions.

Antonino Lo Bue
Channel Communication Manager
Acetrax AG

Profile photo of Jack Turner
Guest

Hi Antonino,

Thank you for getting in touch and giving us your input on this. I am really pleased to hear that Acetrax intends to continue to expand it’s classic film offering.

Whilst I am glad that you have clarified that you do offer The Godfather, there are still huge holes in the online offering of all film streaming services when it comes to classic films.

Using the IMDB top ten rated films as a starting point, it seems that very few are available to stream. Acetrax for example, offers three of the ten, as far as I can tell.

It may be that these films are not available due to licensing issues, or other external factors, but this does not remove from the fact that it is disappointing they are not available for the UK consumer.

However, I do appreciate your comments that Acetrax is continually building it’s back catalogue of films, and I hope that at some point in the future film fans can have a fantastic online resource for rentals.

Profile photo of customerservices_acetrax
Guest

Hi Jack,

thanks for the fast reply.
May I ask you if you are taking as reference this char: http://www.imdb.com/chart/top ?

Thanks in advance

Antonino Lo Bue
Channel Communications Manager
Acetrax AG

Guest
Neil says:
9 January 2012

Looks like netflix are the worst of the bunch!

You have to get down to number 18 in the IMDB top 250 before you find a film you can rent!

No Kubrick,
No Fincher
No Cameron
No Bergman
1 Hitchcock
2 Spielberg
3 Scorcese

No Lord of the Rings, no Star Wars, no Godfather, no Blade Runner, no Citizen Kane, no Pulp Fiction.

I’m very disapointed, I was hoping this would finally be a streaming service to replace the money-grabbing apple corp’s extortionate itunes service.

I signed up for a free trial, but can only find a documentary or two which I muster a passing interest in.

Lets hope this is a limited range for the first day in the UK, and they will expand sharpish!

Profile photo of drywsdad
Guest

We’re keen to discover what Netfix has to offer as we have Apple TV

!. Netflix insist you sign up with a Facebook account – we don’t “do Facebook” and never will
2. We’d like to see the library of movies before we decide to sign up for an account surly it’s not too much to ask ? is it ?