Mail-order DVD rentals broaden options for variety-starved servicemembers
Your unit’s just come off a training exercise, you’re finally out of that gear and you’ve got a three-day weekend ahead of you — a good time to chill in your room and lose yourself in a few good movies.
But what’ll you watch this weekend? Maybe you feel as though you’ve already bought and watched every DVD at the exchange.
Or, you’ve decided the movies you most want to see — maybe an old classic, or a hard-to-find documentary — never seem to be on the racks at the exchange.
Some servicemembers look online and buy titles from companies like Amazon.com.
Some also shop for them in off-base stores, though it may be tough to find what they want with an English soundtrack or even subtitles.
For avid film-watchers, another option is renting by mail — a growing and hotly competitive business in which DVD rental companies offer a vast selection of movie types and titles that can be ordered online.
Current rental fees among leading companies stand at about $18 per month, typically at three titles at a time.
Though specific terms vary among companies, the basic concept is the same: customers go online, make their choices, the company charges a monthly fee to their credit card and ships the DVDs. When finished, the customer mails the DVDs back to the company.
“I think it’s awesome, because sometimes the BX doesn’t have what we want,” said Senior Airman James Correll, a vehicle operator/dispatcher with the 51st Logistics Readiness Squadron at Osan Air Base in South Korea.
And with the firms locked in sharp price competition these days, rental prices have been going down.
As of Nov. 16, for example, one prominent rent-by-mail firm, Netflix, offered the following monthly package:
For $17.99 a month, subscribers can rent as many DVDs as they want, three titles at a time. No due dates or late fees. The DVDs are sent by first class mail directly to the member’s address, along with a postage-paid return envelope. When the customer is done with the DVD, it goes in the envelope and into the mailbox.
Blockbuster Online offered three movies at a time at $17.49 per month.
Retail giant Wal-Mart offered three movies at a time for $17.36 per month.
Companies list other price packages, too.
Typing in “DVD rentals” on any Internet search engine is one quick way to the various Web sites.
The varied genre list offered by one of the companies, for example, includes Internet links to such headings as: action and adventure, classics, drama, horror, romance, comedy, foreign, children and family, documentary, gay and lesbian, music and musicals, sports, sci-fi and fantasy, television and thrillers.
Under drama, that same company displays links to these sub-categories: biographies, courtroom dramas, crime dramas, cult dramas, film noir, military dramas, period pieces, political dramas, showbiz dramas, sports dramas and “tearjerkers.”
Under the children and family heading are separate links to: cartoons, education and guidance, family adventures, family animation, family classics, family comedies, family dramas, family sci-fi and fantasy, and kids’ TV.
And under the sports heading are links to: court sports, exercise and fitness, extreme sports, field sports, martial arts, wrestling and boxing, motor sports and biking, Olympics, other sports, skiing and board sports, sports comedies, sports documentaries and sports dramas.
Correll, 21, of Lexington, Ky., hadn’t heard of the rent-by-mail DVD companies until recently, and while he sees the appeal they might hold for movie buffs, “I wouldn’t be that interested because I don’t watch movies that often.”
But Senior Airman Mihui Kim, 23, of Tampa, Fla., is a frequent movie watcher — “If I can, maybe every other night.” She’s a ground forces controller with the 303rd Intelligence Squadron at Osan.
She hasn’t used a rent-by-mail service yet; she buys most of her movies online, in the Songtan shopping district outside Osan Air Base, or receives as gifts.
But she’d heard of the rent-by- mail DVD business, and knows someone in the States who used one and liked it.
“It’s neat,” said Kim, “but nowadays, I think people would just rather collect DVDs, because it’s so cheap to collect than to rent.”
Nevertheless, she said, she thinks renting by mail could be advantageous for servicemembers who want more variety and don’t mind renting.
“There are advantages, because we don’t have the Blockbuster nearby … or Wal-Mart or Target, and the shipping cost is the same, and it’s not that much of a hassle because it’s prepaid, and you throw it in the post box” when it’s time to return the rented DVD, Kim said.
“So, I guess it would be good for people overseas.”
Kim sees no drawback in any extra time it might take an order to work its way through the mail system to military installations overseas.
“You’re not going to expect them next day, and you’re not going to sit there and, like, watch for the mail to come,” she said.