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Video rental services: Get a look at the various options

October 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Choosing a video rental company is like choosing a restaurant. Some offer more movies and TV shows, others better prices but fewer selections. One that's right for you, may not be the best choice for someone else.

If you watch a lot of movies or TV shows, Netflix offers the most choices. Its streaming service is $7.99 a month for unlimited movies and TV episodes to your computer or TV, and it has about 20,000 titles in its library.

But many movies are only offered on DVD including newer films like "The Social Network" and "Inception" and classics like "Casablanca." Netflix's mail-only DVD service also costs $7.99 a month for one rental at a time.

Blockbuster.com offers no monthly streaming plan, and its DVD-by-mail plan is more expensive at $9.99 a month for one movie at a time. For an additional $5 a month, you get two discs at a time and unlimited exchanges for DVDs at Blockbuster's remaining stores.

If you want to rental your movies a la carte, a better option might be Blockbuster Express kiosks, where you can get DVDs for $1 a day.

Redbox kiosks also offer DVD rentals for a buck a day, with Blu-ray titles 50 cents more. Because the DVDs are dispensed from kiosks, the selection is limited, so both Redbox and Blockbuster Express tend to stock just the newer releases.

VUDU, which is owned by Wal-Mart, offers streaming movies ranging in price from 99 cents a day up to $5.99 for high resolution HDX format DVDs. Many movies come out the same day they're available on DVD and there are no monthly subscription plans.

Amazon.com's Instant Video is similar to VUDU's offering, with about 100,000 on-demand movies from 99 cents to $4.99. For $79 a year, you can watch unlimited instant streaming of videos on Amazon's Prime service. The selection is much smaller, but it includes free shipping on all Amazon products.

Apple's iTunes offers movie rentals that you can watch on your computer, iPhone, iPod or iPad ranging from $2.99 to $4.99.

Hulu offers free streaming movies and TV shows online, but there are commercials before and during the videos. For $7.99 a month, you can subscribe to Hulu Plus, which features a bigger selection, including high definition choices, and you can watch content on your smartphone or tablet.

Hulu is partly owned by Disney, the parent company of ABC7.

Blockbuster Express, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus, all offer trial periods to try out their services from seven to 30 days, absolutely free.

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