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Our correspondent checks out how online movie rentals work and the options available

Our correspondent checks out how online movie rentals work and the options available
If you are hungry,you can always ring for a pizza. But what do you do if you are hungry for some cinematic entertainment? Local video libraries sending staff on daily errands to their customers might be passe. But things have only got better,for now you can rent a VCD/DVD online from the many rental websites that have become popular over the past couple of years. These sites offer cinema across genres,regions and languages and have catalogues that make it easier for users to browse titles and select a movie. Here is how the sites work:

LOG ON
To rent a movie online,you can choose from the many movie rental sites and register for a free membership. Then,choose the rental plan that suits you. Mostly membership is offered on monthly,quarterly,half-yearly and yearly basis,where they offer from six to 72 movies — some packages allow users to rent unlimited titles. However,this varies per website.

CHOOSE & ORDER
If you are looking for a specific title,just do a search. Otherwise you can browse through the wide range of movies by category or alphabetically. Once you have decided what to watch,you can place an order online and the DVD will be delivered to your home or office. Many sites allow you to keep the DVDs for at least three days after which they will pick it up from your place. Some websites charge extra for delays as per the plan.

COLLECTIONS
Most movie rental sites have over 15,000 titles in popular categories like action,classic,comedy,documentary,drama,romance,thriller and world cinema as well as films for children. Some sites even provide guides like Top 100,new releases,recent additions,back on the rack,critics’ pick,themes,favourite directors,Oscar Awards and so on. You can also suggest a movie which is not listed.

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OFFERS
The sites dole out many offers from time to time. These include discounts,quiz contests and referral benefits. Besides,there are seasonal tie-ups where companies offer discounts on memberships and other services.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHT
Besides renting movies,the sites also offer blogging options to share your thoughts about movies,film directors,actors and even praise or criticise service. You can also form a community and trade your DVDs. Some even offer live chat support for cinema lovers.

THE WEBSITES
moviemart.com
Started with just 50-70 titles in April 2006,Moviemart.com has now grown to 15,000 titles in various languages and claims to be “the only one serving 300 cities through a tie-up with a courier company”. The site only rents out DVDs,but claims the quickest delivery.
“We deliver DVDs the same day in Delhi. In fact,it takes us just two hours if the customer is based near Naraina and Lajpat Nagar where we are based. For the rest of Delhi,NCR and Noida,we send DVDs in under five hours,” says CEO Rahul Mansharamani. He admits that the site has somewhat limited choices as it deals only in DVDs,but adds that this ensures that there is no compromise on quality. “Customer of other online movie rental sites have to queue a long list of movies they want to see,and still are not sure what movie they’ll end up with. But we deliver exactly what people ask for,” Mansharamani says,adding that he would prefer a customer for life instead of growth at a frantic pace.
Besides,Moviemart also sells DVDs online. “We started the service just six months ago after many customers refused to return DVDs saying they don’t mind paying for it. So we came upon the idea of a one-stop shop for buying or renting DVDs. We even offer 15 per cent off on most titles,” he adds. The website also tries to source DVDs requested by customers.

seventymm.com
Started in March 2006 in Bangalore,seventymm.com has now spread to Mumbai,Delhi,Chennai,Hyderabad and Chandigarh with as many as 20,000 titles of film from different genre and languages.
“We usually have all titles available in India. Our thrust is on three areas — choice,convenience and community (for expressing what the users liked or didn’t about a movie). These are critical differentiators of our service. We have a more organised network where we have invested on delivery infrastructure and have a mid-size courier service of our own. We deliver movies from the customers’ wishlist within 24 hours,” says COO Subhanker Sarker. “Communities,chat,movie quizzes and gossips are also a critical part of our business. We also have an advance recommendation engine where patrons can suggest what movies they would like to watch. We,through catalogue and other features,suggest films that viewers wanted to watch but were never been able to.” Users can also order movies over phone or SMS and buy movie tickets to most theatres in India.

bigflix.com
Bigflix.com,which entered the market in September 2007,has online and offline presence in 10 cities with 110 stores across India. They have 20,000 titles in all major Indian languages with English and Hindi films making up a major chunk of their titles. “We are content aggregators. We believe in giving everything from English TV series to documentaries to our members,not just blockbusters,” says COO Kamal Gianchandani. Their delivery time is 24 hours after one queues 25 movies. Like the other sites,they too have a blog where “viewers can write their reviews and discuss movies”.
Being a sister concern,Big Pictures production house releases its movies on the site a few days before it hits the home DVD market. “We might get such a film a week or 10 days before the others. We have that benefit,” explains Gianchandani. Bigflix also offers movie downloads,however,this facility is now limited to users outside India. Users can also register offline at their nearest Bigflix store. Besides,the website allows users to pause membership while they go on vacations and save money. The inactive days are added to the next month.

WHAT YOU PAY
Monthly rental varies for each website with all offering flexible plans to suit your pockets. Bigflix’s monthly membership plans start with Rs 699 for one movie at a time to Rs 1,550 for three DVDs. They also offer quarterly,half-yearly and annual plans which start from Rs 1,200,Rs 1,750 and Rs 3,000,respectively,providing you one movie at a time. The rental period for the new titles with Bigflix is often with a 48-hour time-limit,older title(s) have no such limited time limit.
Seventymm offers three sets of monthly,quarterly,half-yearly and annual plans which range between Rs 789 (with six movies/month) and Rs 5,689 (annual plan) where you get unlimited number of DVDs every month (two at a time) with no time limit for returning movies.

Moviemart,besides offering weekend,monthly and annual plans,also offers No Commitment plans where they charge no monthly or annual subscription fees. One just has to pay Rs 175 for watching two DVDs and Rs 99 for one DVD for three days. Their plans start from Rs 279/month for subscribing one DVD for an unlimited time to Rs 6,000/year for ordering seven DVDs which you can keep for an unlimited period.