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How to rent movies online

How to rent movies online 2

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Movie rental services 4x3

Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

  • If you’re looking for a great movie to watch at home, there are a number of online services you can rent streaming films from.
  • Popular digital movie retailers include Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, and FandangoNow.
  • These platforms offer a mix of recent releases and classic films to choose from.
  • Some studios are even releasing brand-new movies for early streaming in the comfort of your home. 
  • You can download many of these apps right now on a variety of devices, and completing a rental is as simple as a few clicks.

Remember when renting a movie meant going to a store? Times have changed awfully quick for the movie industry. With video rental chains a relic of the past, online streaming has become the new standard for renting movies to watch at home. 

With multiple services to choose from — including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, Google Play, and FandangoNow — it’s never been easier to find a film worth renting on a smart TV, media player, or mobile device. These platforms all allow you to browse through a large catalog of digital films, enabling you to pay for rentals individually rather than as part of a subscription.

And, since most theaters are now closed as a result of preventive measures being taken to help stop the spread of coronavirus, several studios are even renting brand-new movies to stream from the comfort of your living room. 

Sitting on the couch and picking up your remote control is your trip to the video store today. While I will always hold onto my ever-growing collection of Blu-rays, I have to admit that the convenience of digitally renting a movie for a few bucks instead of blind buying one at full price is handy. I’ve saved a small fortune through $5.99 rentals with a simple click of my thumb. 

To help make your next movie night at home more enjoyable, we’ve broken down some of the basics of renting streaming films from a variety of services. So, put a bag of popcorn in your microwave and pick up your controller or tablet — there are a lot of great movies out there waiting to be discovered. 

Updated on 8/28/20 by Steven Cohen: Added new in-theater movie titles that are now available to rent or buy.

What services can I rent streaming movies from?

While popular subscription streaming services, like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Hulu, offer film fans a nice catalog of movies to choose from, not everything is available necessarily when you want to watch it. The titles available on subscription platforms are typically limited to certain studios, and newer movies usually take several months to be added.

This is where a digital movie retailer comes in. Instead of offering a select library of films as part of a subscription, platforms like Vudu, Google Play Movies, Apple TV, and FandangoNow all offer a comprehensive assortment of movies that you can rent individually. Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, actually offers individual rentals in addition to its subscription library for Prime members. 

Once you’ve created an account with any of the above services and added your payment details, renting a title is as simple as a few clicks. In most cases you can simply browse through the platform’s website or download the service’s app on a variety of smart TVs, mobile devices, and streaming players. After finding the title you want, you simply click on the movie and complete the instructions to confirm the rental. 

How much do streaming movies cost to rent?

Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV, FandangoNow, and Google Play all let you rent movies for as little as $2.99, though most newer releases top out at $7.99 depending on the resolution you choose. You get 30 days to start watching a title once you rent it, and after you press play you have 48 hours before your rental expires.

If you want to keep a digital movie, you usually also have an option to buy a title so you can stream it whenever you want. Digital movie purchases typically range in price from $4.99 to $24.99 depending on how new a film is. 4K Ultra HD versions of movies are also usually more expensive than HD or SD versions. 

It should be noted, however, that digital purchases aren’t quite as permanent as buying a disc copy of a movie. When you make a digital movie purchase, you’re essentially buying the license to keep streaming that title from the service you’ve selected. But, if that service somehow goes out of business or it loses the rights to the title you bought, it’s possible that you’ll lose access to your digital copy. 

Can I rent brand-new movies still playing in theaters?

When states began issuing stay-at-home orders as a result of the current health crisis, movie theater chains across the country began closing their doors in the interest of public safety. Several studios have now adjusted to the current situation and are allowing people to rent or buy brand-new streaming movies that would otherwise still be playing in theaters.

Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu, FandangoNow, and Google Play all offer these “in-theater” titles. Disney Plus is also experimenting with “Premier Access” titles, like “Mulan,” that can be added to a subscription for an additional fee. Depending on the studio, however, some titles might only be available to rent, while others are only currently available to buy.

Universal and Lionsgate, for instance, initially only allowed viewers to rent their new movies, with prices as high as $19.99 per title. This may seem pricey if you’re planning to watch Universal’s “The Invisible Man” on your own, but if you’re a parent with a passel of kids who would have otherwise spent a small fortune to see “Trolls: World Tour” in a theater — this is a steal. Rental prices are also reduced over time — “Trolls: World Tour,” for instance, is now just $5.99 to rent.

On the other hand, studios like Paramount, Sony, and Warner Brothers, are only allowing people to buy their newest streaming movies, with prices as high as $24.99. In many cases, however, rental options are also being rolled out a few weeks after movies are initially offered for purchase. 

invisible man

Elisabeth Moss in “The Invisible Man.”


Some notable early-release and “in-theater movies” currently available to rent or own through Vudu include:

With so many brand-new movies and classic titles available to rent, picking a platform to use really comes down to choosing the service that works best on the devices you own. Below, we’ve broken down some key details for all of the major digital movie retailers to help you choose which one is right for you.

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