Rent or buy, you decide

Since Apple implemented movie rentals at the iTunes Store I’ve spent some time reviewing the reviews—the customer comments that appear on a movie’s title page. What I’ve found most interesting is the number of “I want to buy this movie, not rent it” and “I want to rent this movie, not buy it” comments.

And not just because there’s a measure of amusement in seeing the number of people who actually believe Apple has some control over which movies can be purchased and which rented. Or that someone would be so blind as to give an outstanding movie a single star rating because of Apple’s alleged lack of flexibility in this regard. No, if I wanted to earn my daily chuckle from erratic reasoning I’d spend more time reading political blogs.

Rather, it stimulates my “in a perfect world” sensibilities, as in: “In a perfect world—one where the movie studios can’t dictate which movies can be purchased and which rented—how would I determine the dividing line? Perhaps like this:

For Purchase

Movies that should be owned.

Kids Movies Anyone who has raised a child in the past 20 years understands that during the first several years of a child’s life, parents are in for a lot of reruns. Kids like familiarity and that means watching Mary Poppins and Yellow Submarine over and over again.

The Classics If the iTunes Store ever gains the kind of depth in its movie catalog that it enjoys in the music world, it would behoove Apple to explore the many 100 Greatest Movies lists floating around the ether and offer those films for sale. People are just as keen to own classic movies such as Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Philidelphia Story, and North by Northwest as they are to have a copy of Dark Side of the Moon, Nevermind, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Collections A variation of the classics theme, people like to own beloved movies that are thematically linked in some way—Humphrey Bogart’s best, a Hitchcock or Kubrick collection, or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example. However, to compete with box sets, Apple’s going to have to bring on the extras.

Cult I’m not sure I’d term Rocky Horror Picture Show, Eraserhead, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and Night of the Living Dead as classics, but they have a loyal following who are willing to watch them time and again.

Musicals And by musicals I don’t mean just My Fair Lady, West Side Story, and The Sound of Music. Let’s also include concert and festival films such as The Last Waltz, A Concert for George, and Woodstock.

For Rent

One-offs.

Current Fare Any film that hits the New Releases shelf at the local Blockbuster is rental meat. Those people who can’t get to the movies as often as they’d like want to catch up on current-ish movies as quickly as they can without making a substantial investment, either financially or in hard drive space.

Not Quite Classics I’m surprised by the number of iTunes Store commenters who suggest that a perfectly decent though pretty forgettable film is “the best movie ever made, why isn’t this for sale!?” If iTunes can’t make the thing available for purchase, feel free to express your preference by buying the DVD, friend.

TV Show Seasons I understand that Apple’s got a good thing going selling seasons of 24, Lost, and South Park, but more people than not watch a TV show once and only once. I’d be happy to rent umpteen seasons of The X Files, but buy them so I can leave the doings of Scully and Mulder to my grandchildren? Oh no.

That’s my take. Any ways you’d further position movies at the iTunes Store? Feel free to drop a comment of your own below.

Subscribe to the MacWeek Newsletter

Comments