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The bizarre world of digital movie pricing

Recently DirecTV had a free HBO preview weekend; as we're not subscribers, I set our DVR up to record a number of movies. One of those films was X-Men: Days of Future Past. I'd never seen any of the X-Men movies, and I really liked this one. So I decided to watch the other six films in the series, renting them on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

I was able to rent all movies except The Wolverine, which is only available as a purchase on either Amazon Video ($12.99) or Apple TV ($14.99). So I had to buy one movie, and rented the other five. In total, I paid $34.94—about $5.82 each—to watch six movies, including buying The Wolverine. That's not outrageously expensive. (I paid an extra $2 to buy the iTunes version, as it's a better viewing experience than Amazon Instant Video.)

But (excluding The Wolverine), that's my cost to watch them just once. If I or anyone in my family wants to watch them in the future, we'll have to pay again. If I want to own the movies, to make them free to watch any time, I could either buy them digitally or on Blu-Ray.

To buy all six movies on iTunes, I'd pay a whopping $89.94, as each is priced at $14.99. (You'd think the first three films, all being at least nine years old, would be cheaper…but you'd think wrong.) Over on Amazon Instant Video, it'd still cost $77.94 to buy the six movies on digital, as they're $12.99 each.

Clearly, if digital is that expensive, then the Blu-Rays will be even more, right? After all, they have to be mastered, duplicated, boxed, sealed, and shipped to retailers. There are physical returns to worry about, and management of all the stuff in all of those steps…so these Blu-Rays are going to be incredibly costly, right? No, not right at all.

A quick trip to leads to X-Men and The Wolverine Collection, which contains all six of the movies on Blu-Ray. And the cost for all six movies? Only $34.96, or exactly two cents more than I paid to to rent five and buy one in digital form!

(I found the exact same collection on for the same price, too, so this isn't some Amazon-only special pricing. And even at the full list price of $69.99, this collection is still cheaper than the digital versions.)

Even if I wanted to buy all six movies separately, the total cost for all six would be $73.78—still cheaper than either iTunes or Amazon Instant Video! (Most of this cost savings is because the older movies are indeed cheaper than the newer movies. And the newer movies are, in some cases, more than their digital counterparts.)

In a nutshell, I should have simply bought the six-disc collection and been done with it. (It's also not too much work to rip them myself if there's not a bundled digital copy, so I can watch on Apple TV, iPad, etc.)

I'd have spent all of two pennies more than what I did, and I'd own the actual movies, free to use when I like and how I like. Sometimes I really hate Hollywood.

7 thoughts on “The bizarre world of digital movie pricing”

  1. Is it Hollywood that you hate or Silicon Valley? Is it more likely we have the download/streaming services to blame for this out-of-whack pricing?

    1. Wish I could even find the 3.99 to 5.99 rentals your talking about as Amazon always wants 19.99 to 24.99 for a rental when I look. The crazy thing is a redbox half a block away will have the same movie for 1.50 for 48 hours.

  2. I'm going with Hollywood, only because the pricing seems so absurd. Why is a 15 year old movie still $15 to stream, but $5 to buy? I don't think that's on Apple ... I'd think Apple would want lower prices to attract more business. But who knows ... I just know it's out of whack!


  3. It is the same story with video games on consoles. I'd guess it has something to do with the ease of buying digital versus the effort to get hard copies.

  4. As a subscriber to most all (except Cinemax) premium channels, my particular conundrum is trying to determine which movie to pay to see before (or if) it gets released to the ones I do pay for. Up to now I haven't found a reliable, reputable source for upcoming release notifications.

    But I do feel your pain, Rob. I've often scratched my head in wonderment at why I can still buy used books in decent-to-acceptable quality from Amazon for under $5 including shipping when Kindle titles are at least close to twice the price.

  5. I honestly agree, I think iTunes pricing is too high. I love apple products so I do typically buy all of my movies on iTunes, I do not rent at all. Figure its better to pay $19.99 to have forever instead of $5.99 to watch one time! ~ But with that said, I know for a fact that iTunes will always cost more than a Blu-ray, because not only do you buy the movie but you also are buying the advantage of not having to load a Blu-ray into a player, and switch TV inputs etc. And its on every device you own, as long as your connected to the internet or download it, without having to do anything you can watch it anywhere on any apple device. With a Blu-ray you can only watch on a TV with a player hooked up to it. Not in a car, on a plane etc.

    So I get why its priced higher, but I still think its too high, I bought all 6 X-Men movies and both Wolverine Movies, and I couldn't believe how much the original X-Men Movies still sold for. I agree a movie 10 years or older no matter the movie should be $13.99 max.

    What about Disney Movies! Even ones 20-40 years old in non HD are $19.99 !!!

  6. I wanted to rent A quiet place, and it’s £9,99 everywhere (except when it’s £11,00 in the PlayStation store). Watching it in the cinema costs me £5,00. Now that’s weird.

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