Tonawanda News

March 19, 2010

A box full of fun

By Paul Lane
The Tonawanda News

NORTH TONAWANDA — I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to Redbox, but I have to say that, now that I’ve discovered it, I’ve fallen in love.

For any cave-dwellers out there, Redbox is the DVD rental company that’s littered your favorite grocery stores with those giant red kiosks near the entrances. You pick your movie, slide in your credit card and pay $1 per day for the privilege of taking home said movie.

This is a simply fantastic idea. I rented from Blockbuster and its ilk back in the day, but the notion of paying for a five-day rental — when I only need a film for one day, in most cases — is silly and wasteful. And, while Netflix’s home delivery service is quite handy, the fact that we’re raising two small children means that my wife and I don’t have enough free time to make a monthly subscription worthwhile.

So that’s where Redbox comes in. If we find ourselves with a night together, I run to the store, pick a movie and then return it on the way to work the next morning, easy peasy.

Since we still seem some time away from high-quality Internet movie distribution, Redbox would seem to be the way to go for rentals. Some Web sites offer movie downloads, and there are streaming videos (both of the legal variety and otherwise) that can be found. But, while I’ve utilized streaming online video in the past, staring at the laptop screen night after night doesn’t have the same appeal as the TV set (or the phone — Redbox offers an iPhone rental app that has more than 1 million users).

While we wait for that, Redbox continues to make waves in the rental industry. Since launching its first tests in 2004, Redbox has expanded nationwide, renting out more than 575 million videos at its more than 22,400 kiosks. The company’s rapid expansion is part of the reason that Blockbuster, once the industry’s king, opted last year to close nearly 900 stores (Blockbuster also recently announced plans to set up Redbox-like rental kiosks).

Redbox also threw at least a shovel’s worth of dirt on Video Factory, DVD Dot and Hollywood Video, once-prominent rental outlets that all had a local presence (Hollywood Video still operates elsewhere, but the national chain closed its Western New York locations). I feel downright Jurassic when I say that I can recall my dad taking me to Video Factory to pick out some VHS tapes to take home, and I guess the whole notion of going to a rental store is equally prehistoric.

Of course, DVDs will soon head down that same path, once homes are readily enabled to receive high-quality movies on their cable boxes or similar devices.

But that won’t happen for a while, and we need something to help pass the time until then. I’ll kindly suggest a trip to your nearest Redbox kiosk. You might just develop a love affair of your own.