All About Watching Movies For Cheap

by golbguru on March 12, 2007

I am anticipating this to be a long post, so let’s just get going without any introductory jargon. :)

Movie options that didn’t work for us (but may work for some)

netflix frugalityNetflix: We tried Netflix once, but didn’t quite get along with it. We usually watch movies only on weekends (weekdays are incredibly busy)…and we watch a lot of them on weekends. So, if we were to go with Netflix, the only attractive options for us would be the 3-movies-at-a-time for $17.99/month or the 4-movies-at-a-time for $23.99/month. With either option, we would probably get all the movies before the weekend and return them immediately after the weekend. If we do this about 4 times every month (on an average), that still works out to be about $1.5 per movie….assuming we watch 12 movies (3 on each weekend) on the $17.99 plan or 16 movies (4 on each weekend) with the $23.99 plan. If we end up watching less (in all probability this will happen often), then the cost per movie is even more. Plus, there is no way we can predict our weekend-mood in advance….like, we don’t want to be stuck with horror movies when we really want to watch something light.

blockbuster frugalityBlockbuster: In-store renting from Blockbuster is just ridiculously expensive…costs something like $4+ per DVD. We gave up on Blockbuster about three years ago. It just sucked too much. I checked the Blockbuster Total Access program, but in our case it works out to be almost similar to the Netflix options (with the same disadvantages), plus the added goodness of exchanging movies in-store.

Cheap movie rentals @ vending machines (kiosks)

the new releaseThe New Release (TNR): There are about 4 of these movie-vending machines installed on the premises of some large retail chain stores in our vicinity. The machine charges $1 (plus tax) per day for each DVD rented. This is our best movie-renting option so far. There is no limit on how many movies you can rent.

redbox frugalityRedbox: I was unaware of these kiosks till I saw them at a couple of MacDonald’s in Texas. Redbox is a venture between MacDonald’s and Coinstar . It essentially offers the same deal as TNR vending machines: $1 per DVD per day. At times, Redbox offers promotional codes (check this website) which might allow you to borrow DVDs for free!

DVDXpress frugalityDVDXpress: In addition to $1 per day DVDs, these guys also offer $12.99 per month subscriptions with no limitations on the number of movies you can rent.

DVDPlayDVDPlay: According to this article, DVDPlay pioneered the automatic movie vending technology. This service offers movie rentals @ $1.49 per DVD for the first day and after that, 99 cents per day.

I have personally used only The New Release as of yet, and I am pretty happy with it; found the rest of the services by searching online. I wanted to mention the vague locations/states in which there are better chances of finding these kiosks. However, trying to find how many kiosks are installed in a given city is really painful (none of the companies have a published database of all the cities/locations their respective kiosks). However, they do provide search options based on zipcodes, so see if you can find one near you.

Other cheap movie options

Hastings: We use Hastings occasionally when the movies we want are not available in the New Release Machine. Rentals are a bit cheaper here (as compared to Blockbuster) at about $3.5 per DVD for recently released movies and about $2 for older movies. The good thing is that they give you credit ($1 credit for new movies and $0.5 credit for old movies) for returning rented movies before the end of the next business day. So, that works out to be not-so-expensive. We have also found Hastings to be the best place to buy used DVDs. Our local Hastings store runs some used DVD promotions a few times a year. Over the last couple of years, we have bought about two dozen popular DVD movies from the store at an average price of around $3 per DVD!…it’s just that you won’t get the latest movies in these kinds of promotions.

Using friends’ network: We must have borrowed and lent tons of movies (all for free) between our friends. This option works best when used in moderation. Too much borrowing or lending between friends may lead to “taken-for-granted” type of situations and magically damaged DVDs.

Using students’ networks: Let’s just say that the cheapest things in the world are often bought from graduating students. :) If you live near a school/university, look out for some student mailing lists…especially around graduation time. We haven’t bought a lot of movies this way, but some of our friends have managed to grab a sackful of movies in $5 ~$10 from students who preparing to graduate and leave this place.

Some quick tips for movies @ theaters

If you are a student, use your college/university identity card at movie theaters to get significant discounts. In our town, we get to watch movies in a darn good theater complex for just $4.00 with our student ID cards. Regular “Adult” tickets are $6.00. Interestingly, tickets marked “Child” or “Senior” are more expensive than the student tickets. :)

If possible, don’t buy your tickets online. Usually, there is a service charge of about $1~$1.50 involved with buying theater tickets online. That’s like a 25% ~ 37.5% *convenience* charge on a $4.00 ticket…not worth it.

Please feel free to share information about how you get your movies for cheap. Do you (or anyone you know) use online streaming/downloading stuff for watching movies? I tried to find some information about that…but I kept landing on shady websites and eventually gave up.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 invincible 03.12.07 at 6:42 am

Hey Golbguru,
i’ve been a silent reader for some time now.
I generally like your posts on credit score. I greatly believe it wud help me shuffle things a bit n thanks for the ‘loan tips’ thru ur brother’s car.

So you kept tapping on my blog all these days !! ok, next time i wud keep you abreast of my mood on sabbatical/come back :)

2 MoneyFwd 03.12.07 at 7:04 am

We don’t really have any kiosks around here so they won’t help. I’ve also tried Netflix and didn’t care for it. We now use Blockbuster because it’s extremely convenient for us. We get 2 at a time, but we only watch a movie or 2 every weekend and maybe a movie during the week so it works well. Plus we get a free rental coupon every week to go to blockbuster and get a free movie, and we can turn the mail ones into the store to get a movie. Well worth it for us.

Another option is the library. A lot of libraries now have movie sections where you can borrow movies for a week at a time. Theire selection may not always be great, but it’s worth a look. After all, your taxes are paying for the movies already.

3 invincible 03.12.07 at 8:31 am

Using friends’ network: We must have borrowed and lent tons of movies (all for free) between our friends. This option works best when used in moderation. Too much borrowing or lending between friends may lead to “taken-for-granted” type of situations and magically damaged DVDs.

Using students’ networks: Let’s just say that the cheapest things in the world are often bought from graduating students. :) If you live near a school/university, look out for some student mailing lists…especially around graduation time. We haven’t bought a lot of movies this way, but some of our friends have managed to grab a sackful of movies in $5 ~$10 from students who preparing to graduate and leave this place.

P.S. i liked the message ‘Sorry, you can only post a new comment once every 15 seconds. Slow down cowboy.’ the only concern is it shud know to count time. is it 15 seconds or 15 minutes.

One of my friends got netflix acct recently thru his BOA cred card cos he got few thousand bonus pts thru that deal. one-movie-at-a-time - $9.99 pm(which u already know). So he can watch 10 movies in a month (a movie every third day, as his is not weekend only movies), so about a $ per movie.
I joined library this weekend, i saw lot of good (but not so new) titles out there n u get to keep them for a week for free !

4 Gaming the Credit System 03.12.07 at 11:38 am

My basic strategy so far is to buy movies cheaply at Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. when they go on sale. Check the ads every Sunday… they’ll often have a decent sale. $4 DVD’s or even 3 for $10. I usually won’t go for the $5-and-up DVD’s. And usually these are fairly big-name movies. The other day I bought A Knight’s Tale, Jurassic Park, Cruel Intentions, and Wayne’s World for $3.99 apiece at Circuit City. As you mention, this is about the same price as it would be to rent from Blockbuster, except I get to keep them (and maybe sell them later for a couple of bucks). I’ve built up a pretty good-sized library doing this, and I currently have a buffer of about 20 movies that I haven’t yet watched.

5 invincible 03.12.07 at 12:48 pm

Link’s updated.
made few more cosmetic changes (font/color/uppercase-lowercase etc).

6 The Digerati Life 03.12.07 at 4:06 pm

This is such a superb article. You must’ve covered everything! I subscribe to Netflix but have ignored my movie queue for so long. I’ve wanted to drop the service but the hubby refuses. :( As you can see, we are far from being truly efficient and careful with the $$$.

7 dimes 03.12.07 at 6:57 pm

Wow when I was in college we marketed DVDXpress or similar movie vending products and the teacher HATED it. This was before Netflix or OnDemand had hit the big time. I’m thrilled to know someone likes it!

8 ispf 03.12.07 at 7:32 pm

Golb: Nice list! I agree that the kiosks are the best deal! And I miss having the “student network” for buying from graduating students - it really is the cheapest way to buy anything!!!

I remembered a few more ways to watch movies for cheap and started to list them out. But the list got very long, so I posted it on my blog. Think of it as a “Sequel” to this post :)

PS: Submit button for comments is again missing in IE.

9 golbguru 03.12.07 at 9:49 pm

MoneyFwd and Invincible: Yeah, I forgot about mentioning libraries as *free* source. However, I had trouble getting R rated movies at one *similar* source before. :) Also, we get some movies from our school library…but we are not allowed to carry them home (that’s lame).

Gaming the Credit System: That sounds like a good strategy…I have often persuaded myself to buy some DVDs on sale (if they are below $4) rather than rent. However, I have never ever sold a DVD before…somehow, most movies that we have bought…we can watch them any number of times, so don’t have the heart to get rid of them.

“20 movie buffer” lol…that’s a lot. You must be having a pretty healthy “turnover”. :)

SVB: I did not mention that reason under our Netflix experience…that happened with us too. I think there is some sort of a “cost of procrastination” associated with Netflix.

Dimes: Yeah..somehow I like the machines better (when they stock the movies we want). However, there are reasons why one may potentially hate the idea - having to stand in a queue (sometimes for a long time) and limited choices (in terms of number of movies and also in terms of number of copies of each available movie) are just two of them.

ispf: Good sequel. I like the dollar-theater stuff.

Thanks for pointing out the IE6 button problem…again. :)

10 Lem 03.13.07 at 6:32 am

I personally prefer buying PPV movies with my digital box. It’s provides me the convenience and comfort without leaving my house. Plus, I hate driving anyways!

11 Anastacia 03.15.07 at 7:08 am

What about renting free movies from the library? You can either go in & Pick out movies on a Sat or Sun morning (depending on the hours of your local library - one of the local libraries is open both mornings, the other only on Sat, but all day), or you can request movies ahead of time online, and they call/email you when the movie has come in. You usually have a week to watch it (sometimes two), and can renew all but the newest of releases. If you return it late, it’s a $1 a day late fee, but our library usually forgives us since we get so much stuff from the library.

12 financial hack 03.16.07 at 4:47 am

I find that I can usually get free movie tickets through product promotions. Even when you add in the cost of the product, the cost of the movie tickets is much less than buying them at retail prices.

13 Wendy 03.16.07 at 9:52 am

Amazon’s unbox just launched a service to push the videos you rent online to your tivo box. They are 3.99 to rent, you have 30 days to start them, and 24 hours to watch them once you start. They are giving $15 credit for new sign ups. I signed up and rented one with my credit while I was at work. When I got home it was there in my “Now Playing” list. Since we use tivo all the time and one of the only reasons to keep the set top box for cable was the on demand movies, I may get rid of the digital cable box and just use this service in the future.

14 Cindy M 03.17.07 at 4:06 pm

The library is great. I take it a step further. If I see an actor/actress I like, I go to IMDb and track down the movies they’ve made, then go to my library’s web site and reserve the movies. I try never to rent/buy movies or books, for that matter. There’s so much good free stuff at the library if you know how to use it.

15 MidnightUT 03.25.07 at 7:20 pm

I’m a little late reading this, so who knows if anyone will see this comment. Anyway I’d have to throw my vote in with Blockbuster. Given the free in store rental for each movie you turn in in store its very easy to double the movies you get with netflix. So you can pretty much cut costs down to about .75 a movie. You could get it lower but you’d have to have more free time that what I currently have. All this being said I was a Netflix subscriber for several years, and they have a much better overall customer experience. Blockbusters website is horrible in comparison.

16 golbguru 04.03.07 at 8:47 am

Anastacia and Cindy M: Yep…I am going to check out my local libraries very soon. Hopefully they stock some good collection there.

Wendy: Thanks for the info on Amazon’s service.

MidnightUT: Thanks for your feedback. I think I need to re-consider Blockbuster sometime; I have heard a lot of people talk about their new schemes.

17 John 04.04.07 at 7:20 pm

I am a fan of The New Release. They offer a affordable and convenient way to rent new releases. It is just $1 per day, with no late fees. The zip code locator is on their web site (

18 adam berk 05.26.07 at 2:32 pm is a great way to get movies on the cheap! it’s a great new website that addresses the issues discussed above about borrowing from friends and other networks of people borrow from a neighbor (a neighbor can be anyone “near”)

19 Cheap movie downloads 11.09.07 at 5:26 pm

When I want to download some new movies to my iPod I usually do it with - they sell iPod movies for just $1.99.

20 Online movie downloads 10.13.08 at 9:48 pm

Any movies you can watch on your computer can be converted to the corect format for the ipod. If you already have a movie on DVD, it can be converted as well. Do a search for “DVD ripper” to get the software. Convert it to the the corect format. Upload to your ipod…alot easier said than done Or, I found a site where you can pay once to get the software, movie download sites, documentation and tech support at

21 Cancun Mexico 09.03.12 at 5:53 am

I love netflix but I am able to stream from from game system to watch it on the tv. so it is pretty convenient.

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