Redbox Purchases

Back when Blockbuster was still around, you would rent a movie for 2 or 3 days for about $4. Then Redbox came along and you could get a movie for $1 per night. That was great. Once Blu-rays came out they charged $2 for those, but still pretty cheap and Blu-rays look so much better on a big TV. Still, I never used Redbox that much, but I think it’s a great service and almost always cheaper than renting a movie online, but you do have to drive twice, once to pick it up and once to drop it off.

On Blu-ray forum, people talked about being able to buy Blu-ray disks from Redbox, but I never paid much attention because I wouldn’t want one of their beat up disks anyway. Then I noticed someone post about buying codes for digital movies from Redbox. Sometimes when you buy a movie, it will include a code so you can have a digital copy from a service like iTunes, Vudu, or Movies Anywhere. You’re not supposed to sell the digital code, but people sell them all the time online, usually for $3 to $8. For the most part I try to buy Blu-ray movies around $5 to $6 that include a digital copy. I certainly don’t mind paying an extra dollar for a digital copy. Then Vudu has a service where you can buy digital copies of Blu-rays you own already for $2, but it only worked on about half of the Blu-rays I have that didn’t come with a digital copy. It is hard to know whether Vudu’s service will work on a disk before you buy it even though there are lists out there of movies and UPC’s that should be eligible.

So Disney which kind of dominates the movie business with not just Disney, but Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars, keeps pretty tight controls on its products. While most Blu-rays will go down in price to $5 to $7 after maybe a year, Disney titles generally don’t go much below $20. That’s one reason to join the Disney Movie Club, so you can get those for an average of $8 to $9 each. Even that is more expensive than I usually want to pay, but they are good movies and that’s the best deal going. Every now and then on Black Friday or something you can get a Marvel or Disney title for about $8 at a store. A lot of other studios will give a discount to movie rental places because they buy so many copies of a movie (they make them wait a couple of weeks after the release of the movie before renting them out) but they might make a special stripped down version of the disk that only includes previews and no extras (certainly not a digital copy). Delaying the rental release and then selling a stripped down version is a way to keep people buying the movies. Disney does not do that so supposedly Redbox has to buy full retail versions of movies (though I’m sure they get a wholesale price). Most of the time Disney’s retail versions include a Blu-ray, DVD, and a digital version. That works well for Redbox because they rent out both Blu-ray and DVD movies, and probably more DVD than Blu-ray (I’m not sure why people still rent or buy DVDs since Blu-rays are far superior and the players can be had for less than $50, but they do).

All of this gets to this point: Redbox has all of these digital codes from buying retail versions of Disney movies. The package tells them they are not allowed to sell the digital codes separately. But Redbox decided to sell them anyway. You can find which Redbox machine is selling what online and for how much. You can buy it online and then go to the Redbox machine for pickup, swipe your credit card, and out pops a plastic Redbox case with an envelope inside instead of a disk and the envelope contains the piece of paper from inside the original Blu-ray case with the code printed on it. You can then redeem that for the movie (plus 150 Disney Movie Rewards points which is worth about $1.50 towards buying movie posters and more Blu-rays). New release digital codes are expensive at Redbox: the code for Cars 3 is $14.99 right now. But I love how Redbox follows supply and demand and over time the price drops. A little bit older 2017 title like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has a code for only $7.99 (I bought the Blu-ray, DVD, and digital version with slipcover for $8 on Black Friday). A much older title like Inside Out is only $3.99. An older movie that people aren’t that interested in like Tomorrowland is only $2.99 (but very few locations have those codes by now). My DMR points were way down, so I bought 3 digital codes from Redbox over the holidays: Iron Man 3 and The BFG for $3.99 each and Tomorrowland for $2.99. That was 450 points, half of what I needed to get a Blu-ray (and DVD and digital copy) of the Disney canon double feature from 1949 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. But I also got 3 pretty decent digital movies (and 3 free Redbox plastic cases to keep!). In a not that surprising turn of events, Disney is now suing Redbox for selling the codes when the packages clearly say they are not to be sold separately. Redbox is still selling the codes. Other studios probably just sell rental disks without codes to Redbox because the only codes Redbox sells are for Disney movies.

So that was nice to get a few movies and DMR points from Redbox. But they also sell the disks using the same pattern of high prices at first, slowly declining over time. Again, you can find movies for sale at the Redbox website and then just go to that machine and pick them up just like you were renting the disk, only you never return it. $3.99 seems to be the floor price for most movies, which isn’t that bad considering a Blu-ray is $2 a day just to rent. But $3.99 for a bare used disk compared to buying a pristine Blu-ray for $5 which includes a case (maybe even a slipcover!) and sometimes a DVD and/or a digital code isn’t that great. It is interesting that Redbox often charges less to buy a Blu-ray disk than a DVD. I think maybe they are selling a lot of movies when people fail to return them. The good thing about Blu-rays is that they have a more scratch-resistant surface than DVD’s so even though they are used, they don’t show it. And Redbox does some sort of quality control to make sure the disks are playable, so bad disks should be getting filtered out. Another nice thing is the Blu-rays hold a lot of data, so much that while a lot of DVD’s have one disk for the movie and one disk for the special features, the movie and special features are usually both on the same Blu-ray disk. But how much is just a disk really worth? If you can get the Blu-ray new for $5 or even $8, then $3.99 probably isn’t that good a deal. Just being used takes off a few dollars, then with no case is maybe another dollar or two and if you can buy new and get a digital copy that’s another dollar or two. Special features are worth maybe a dollar as well, depending on the movie. I don’t doubt that for a few dollars you can buy an empty Blu-ray case then download the cover artwork, print it, and have something that looks just like the original Blu-ray. So maybe for two or three dollars you could make your own Blu-ray case. I would still rather buy my own copy generally. But for some of these Disney titles where they will never go below the $8 to $9 from Disney Movie Club, it could work. This is especially true for some of the Marvel movies where the movies are good, but probably not something I would buy even for $8, but for $4? Maybe that isn’t so bad. I would rather have a digital code than just a bare disk, but the codes disappear or are more expensive (last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies is $5.99 for the disk but $9.99 for the digital copy). So I bought 3 Marvel disks for $3.99 each (plus tax, no tax on digital copies): Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Doctor Strange. I had rated all of these movies as a B+ or A- when I saw them at the theater. And I had not seen the extras which are included on the disk. I chose not to get Ant-Man which I didn’t think was that good. Anything older than a 2014 release wasn’t available for purchase anymore (would have liked to have gotten the original Avengers movie from 2012). When I got them home the disks looked like they were in great shape. They have a round paper sticker around the hole for Redbox to read, but otherwise are normal retail disks. I washed them with soap and water to get rid of any marks or fingerprints and didn’t see any scratches. I put Doctor Strange in the player and it seems just fine and looks great in HD. So I figured I would go ahead and get Captain America: Winter Soldier as well since I had never seen that and Civil War had some stuff in it relating to that earlier movie. Plus it is from 2014 and probably won’t be for sale much longer. That’s 4 Marvel movies for $17 total, which is less than what Amazon charges for any one of those titles new. Even used one disk in its case is about that much shipped. Now I have some more movies to watch on snow days like today.

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  1. Pingback: Building a Blu-ray | Ted's Blog

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