Blockbuster's core business is operating several thousand brick-and-mortar stores that rent DVDs, Blu-ray discs and video games. But the company also offers several options for renting movies and TV shows via the Internet, and that will be the focus here.
The unique advantage Blockbuster has over competitors is their flat-rate subscription plans which permit you to rent discs both online and in the brick-and-mortar stores. These plans are aimed at subscribers living near a store. You can choose from the wide selection of titles that can be ordered online and sent by mail, and can also enjoy the spontaneity of picking up a disc at a neighborhood store on the spur of the moment.
Blockbuster offers three classes of flat-rate subscriptions where the company interfaces with customers on its Website and sends them discs via the US Postal Service. The two most popular of these classes will be detailed here, while the third will be described in a separate article.
Also via the Internet, you can rent movies and TV shows that will be downloaded to your PC from Blockbuster. The download service will be discussed separately.
Blockbuster by Mail
Basically, Blockbuster by Mail works the same as Netflix, except Blockbuster doesn't offer any movies or TV shows for streaming. With Blockbuster by Mail, you sign up at the company's Website, then set up a list of titles. Suppose you choose the three DVDs-at-a-time plan. They will determine which requested DVDs are available and mail you discs containing the three available titles highest on your list. When you return a disc, they mail you the next available title that is highest on your list. There are no late fees, and Blockbuster pays all postage. You can cancel without incurring extra fees. Most customers can expect to receive a DVD one or two business days after it's shipped. But there are no guarantees as to availability or turn-around time.
The Blockbuster by Mail rental plans are:
- $15.99 plus taxes per month for 3 DVDs-at-a-time (no limit on number of rentals per month)
- $13.99 plus taxes per month for 2 DVDs-at-a-time (no limit on number of rentals per month)
- $8.99 plus taxes per month for 1 DVD-at-a-time (no limit on number of rentals per month)
- $3.99 plus taxes per month for 1 DVD-at-a-time (limit of 2 rentals per month)
A disc can be returned by mail, but if you return it at a brick-and-mortar store, you should receive your next disc quicker. Alternatively, if you return an online rental at a brick-and-mortar store, you can exchange it for an in-store rental at a discount.
Blockbuster Total AccessThe Blockbuster Total Access plans work the same as the Blockbuster by Mail plans, except the subscriber pays more and in return is allowed a limited number of what are called "in-store exchanges." An in-store exchange is where a subscriber takes a disc received by mail into a participating brick-and-mortar store and swaps it for a rented disc in the store at no additional cost. However, this applies only to movies and TV shows, and does not apply to video games. Discs received by way of in-store exchange can be kept indefinitely without incurring extra charges, but they count toward how many online rentals you are allowed to have out.
The Blockbuster Total Access rental plans are:
- $19.99 plus taxes per month for 3 DVDs-at-a-time (no limit on number of mail rentals per month) plus 5 in-store exchanges per month
- $16.99 plus taxes per month for 2 DVDs-at-a-time (no limit on number of mail rentals per month) plus 3 in-store exchanges per month
- $11.99 plus taxes per month for 1 DVD-at-a-time (no limit on number of mail rentals per month) plus 2 in-store exchanges per month
- $9.99 plus taxes per month for 1 DVD-at-a-time (limit of 2 mail rentals per month) plus 2 in-store exchanges per month
If you exhaust your limit of free in-store exchanges, you can still return an online rental at a brick-and-mortar store and swap it for an in-store movie or TV show rental at a discount. Also, you can swap an online rental at a store for a video game rental at a discount.
If you have convenient access to a brick-and-mortar Blockbuster store, don't rent many DVDs, and place a high value on spontaneity, there's a good chance you'll be happiest to just get your movie rentals at the store and pay for each one separately.
But if you don't mind planning in advance what you want to watch and you regularly rent quite a few DVDs, you should consider signing up for one of Blockbuster's subscription plans. However, most people won't want to choose Blockbuster by Mail because for about the same price, Netflix offers a larger library of titles and a superior online experience. (See the article "Netflix vs. Blockbuster.") The prices for Blockbuster Total Access Premium are so high that this class of service is good value only for very high-volume renters. Thus, the typical prospective customer will usually want to focus attention on one of the plans in the Blockbuster Total Access category.