Why does Redbox exist?

The other day as I was outside the grocery store, I noticed a Redbox kiosk and was astonished to see people actually using it.

This surprised me. You know how many times I’ve said, ‘hmm, I feel like watching [whatever movie I wanted to watch]’ and looked it up on Amazon and had it not be available there to stream? ZERO. And I’ve watched a hell of a lot of movies.

What do these kiosks offer exactly, that people can’t get on Amazon (or Hulu, or Netflix)? I don’t understand why anyone would bother with a physical DVD when seemingly every movie and show can be streamed from the internet (and also, often from your TV provider’s on-demand service.)

Is it just that there are still a lot of people out there who have DVD players hooked up to TVs and don’t ever bother to hook up their TV to some internet-capable device, either because they don’t know how or they don’t have the internet? I can’t imagine that there are enough of these people for a physical DVD rental company to make a profit.

I can’t count the number of movies I’ve wanted to watch that are not on Netflix or Hulu. Looking at Amazon it apparently requires you have a Smart TV or their Fire Stick to rent movies and I have neither. (I have a computer monitor as a TV in the office and a projector in the living room). I buy blu-rays rather than rent from Redbox, but I can see why someone would

I’ve never used Redbox, but there have been many times when the film I want to watch is not available through Amazon or Netflix and it’s not like I was looking up old or obscure titles either.

From here.

The audio on BluRays is superior to the audio on streaming downloads. A disc encoded with Dolby TruHD, for example can be in excess of 40Gb. Amazon and Netflix are probably not going to offer you that, opting instead for basic 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS, both compressed codecs.

So for those us that have a semi-decent home theater, for now, the BluRay is a better audio experience. I do have a semi-decent home theater and stream a ton of stuff, but for movie night, I’ll pay the $1.30 at Red Box and for ‘keepers’, I’ll buy the disc.

Many movies aren’t available on streaming services, but as long as they’re released on DVD or Blu-ray, Redbox can offer them for rental. And it’s relatively cheap. Just a dollar or two to rent a movie for a day.

I’ve rented movies from Amazon on my computer many times.

A lot of people cant or don’t want to pay for the data required to watch movies online. Especially in the rural parts of the country where Redbox is popular.

The streaming services you name require a subscription, and some way to link the TV to a computer network. A Redbox machine requires only my credit card, and back at home, a DVD player.

Netflix is $11 per month, I believe? If you only have time to watch 1 movie a week, Redbox will be $5.20 a month.

Amazon Prime is $99 a year, but there aren’t very many recent release movies included for free. And for movies not available for free, a “rental” from Amazon is typically $3.

There is a Red Box less than 3 blocks away from my house. I can get [about] 3 movies from it for the price of one from pay-per view. So for a 2 minute walk (that I take anyway for my daily 5 mile walk) why on Earth wouldn’t I rent from that instead of using the PPV feature?

In my suburban town there is a Walmart grocery store where I always see a line of at least three people at the Redbox every time I shop. They look to mostly be older people. Maybe they’re not computer savvy? Maybe part of the fun is going to pick it out while you grab a to-go box from the store deli. And now we even have wine in the store!

I don’t know what movies you’re watching but looking at prices right now, Amazon is streaming current movies (as in just left the theater) for $6 a pop. An equivalent blu-ray from Redbox (at least in my area) is $2 plus if you sign up with your email you’ll get a couple of completely free rentals a month.

Now, if you’re talking movies available to stream for free after paying for a monthly subscription, I have access to NetFlix, Amazon Prime, and HBO and 75% of the time the recent movie I want to watch isn’t on any of them so I’m forced to either use Redbox or see if it’s on YouTube for free.

I see people using Redbox all of the time. It’s not astonishing to me at all.

And the movies they want may not be available at the library, or another outlet for DVD rentals. Redbox says right up front what they offer, and for how much.

I think that the previous posters have hit on the main points:

  • Accessible for those who can’t, or don’t know how to, use streaming services (this is probably the biggest one)
  • Inexpensive
  • Access to films not on streaming

They’re certainly smaller than they were before streaming got big; I’ve recently had to take a look at their business numbers as part of my job, and their business is definitely contracting (and contracting fairly rapidly). I’m fairly certain that, as suggested above, their core users today are a combination of (a) older users, (b) rural users, and © poorer users.

I’d be surprised if they can stay afloat for more than another few years, unless they radically change their business model, but as has been pointed out, there’s still a niche for what they offer.

Last I checked, none of those services worked out-of-the-box on free operating systems, and even if you do get them working you need proprietary software to run them. Downloads and physical media (as opposed to streaming) also have the advantage that you can watch the videos without an Internet connection, such as when travelling on most ships, trains, and planes.

As an aside, ISTR encountering a kiosk at SeaTac two or three years ago that purported that you could rent a movie off it by copying it onto your phone or tablet, via USB, for the purposes of watching it in flight. (Definitely an upgrade from the service I saw 10+ years ago or so, where they’d rent you a DVD player with a monitor built in and you had to return it when you arrived at your destination.)

How’s that business doing these days?

I have heard that some people rent physical discs so that they can burn a copy to add to their collection.

And this may be perfectly legal for some media types in some jurisdictions. For example, Canada recently amended its Copyright Act to introduce a levy on blank recording media, and simultaneously to permit copying of copyrighted sound recordings for personal use. So if you borrow a CD or DVD from a friend, a library, or a rental store, you’re free to rip the audio for your own private enjoyment.