DVD Rental by Post

The traditional way

I live very close to a Blockbuster shop and I quite enjoy going in there to rent a movie or two. It's quite nice to not have any pressure, all you have to do is to go to the Blockbuster shop, have a browse, and pick up a movie if you want. Sometimes there's nice movies on TV or you've just brought a few DVDs, or you've borrowed some from your friends. This means you don't go to Blockbuster. On the other hand, if you're bored, or there's say some football league or some other sports event on TV all the time, you might want to go to Blockbuster a few times per week to cheer you up. No strings attached. That's a nice feeling.

The cons of the traditional way

Every coin has got two sides, so does the traditional way. First thing that annoys me with Blockbuster is their limited selection; they mostly have the, erhm, latest blockbuster movies in. That is, they only have the latest movies, and loads of them - maybe 50 copies of Spiderman. Granted they also have a small selection of "classic" movies, but nothing that comes close to a (book) library. Meaning that if you want something that's not mainstream, you're screwed. Another thing is obviously the late fees. Haven't we all realised at 21:45 in the evening that we need to return the movie before 22:00. Panic strikes and you rush out in your comfy trousers looking like a hobo.

The new promise

Renting DVDs by Post promises that you can have "as many DVDs per month as you want", and that you don't have to leave your house to get them, and most important - there's no late fees. Caz and I decided to give ScreenSelect a go, mainly because of the promise to "save money". Which is a bit of truth which can be applied with a bit of modification. Maths say that if we get more than 4 DVDs per month, we're "saving money". Applying of course to the offer we accepted.

How does ScreenSelect work

First you have to choose your package. Yes, annoyingly you have a monthly subscription (I really hate subscription services!) that allows you to have a certain number of DVDs at home at the same time. We chose the "2 DVDs at any time for £12.50 per month"-package. The 1 DVD at any time package seemed a bit of a waste as we would have periods when our single DVD is in transit, and we didn't really feel the need to have 3 or more DVDs at home at any time.
You sign up online on their website, and when you sign up, you populate your list of movies that you want to watch. Here's the bad part; You won't be able to select when a certain movie will arrive. This is, to me, the only serious flaw with this system. I could probably accept the fact that you can't pick a movie based on your moods, as you can if you walk to Blockbusters. The possibility of renting a horror movie on a dark and rainy night is completely gone with renting by post. The only way of affecting what movie you will get when, is by selecting how eager you are to see a particular movie. I can't say if our choices have actually made any difference.
When you've signed up and you've selected an endless bunch of movies you'd like to watch at some point in the future, you sit back and wait for the mailman to ring twice, or rather drop the DVD(s) through your letter box.

When you DVD arrives...

... it arrives in a little red special DVD envelope. You have to open this envelope up in a special way as it also serves as the return envelope, quite smart actually. The actual DVD is in its own plastic sleeve which seems to be quite robust.

Movie Quality

The movies that are delivered doesn't seem to be the same as you'd get at Blockbuster. The ScreenSelect DVDs seem to have fewer features in general. We've recieved DVDs with only English subtitles (usually not a problem, but a "normal" DVD seem to come with anything from 3 languages up to 10 or more). Very few DVDs also seem to have features such as "Making of..." or "Behind the scenes", and I can't remember one having "Outtakes". Quite sad as these extra features is what makes the difference between a DVD and a VHS tape (along with the picture and sound quality of course).

When you're done...

... all you have to do is to put the DVD in its plastic sleeve and then put that into the envelope, and seal it. Then you drop it off at the nearest mail box. Quite easy, except for you're bound to have to do some travelling to get to you mail box - even if it's just in the next block, you still have to make a detour.

And then you wait...

This is another annoying part. Once you've dropped your DVD in the mail box, there's nothing to do apart from waiting. Once the DVD has reached ScreenSelect you'll get an email saying it's arrived. A bit later, hopefully the same day, you'll get another email announcing what DVD has been sent out to you... but you still wait. Then one morning it'll drop in through your letter box... and lather, rinse, repeat... lather, rinse, repeat..

Closing credits

I don't know if I've completely made my mind up about ScreenSelect yet. I think it's more quantity than quality, unfortunately I don't think Blockbusters offer much more quality, certainly less quantity. Do I need the quantity? I doubt it. The whole subscription thing adds a nervous undertone to the whole deal, because you know you have to watch the movies that show up at your doorstep, otherwise you won't get enough value for your money, and you need to watch them quickly so you make sure you get even better value for money! Quite stressful actually.
I also don't really get along with the fact that the DVDs seem to be inferior in features to "normal" DVDs, I often enjoy watching a bit of "rubbish" garnished around the actual movie.
To make this service perfect, I'd like to be able to order my DVDs on the ScreenSelect website so I know which DVD I can get next. Or at least, an email sent to me saying "you have 2h to choose which movie you want out of the available ones". This would give me the option to log onto the site and select my most preferred movie out of the available ones (which would be a subselection of my complete selection).
Another peculiar thing about ScreenSelect is that they have a lot of TV series, such as Friends, MacGyver, Family Guy, Seinfeld, Will & Grace, etc etc. It's quite fun to watch these series, but they do send them in a consecutive order, meaning that after watching the 3rd Seinfeld DVD in a row, he's not at all funny anymore.
The service is still young and we're willing to stick with it for a while.