Movie Magic

Movie Magic brings Redbox-like DVD rentals to Toronto

Anyone who has been into a Toronto convenience store lately may have been surprised to find that the bulky, ATM-looking machine inside wasn't dispensing cash, but rather renting out DVDs. A company called Playdium has been popping the kiosks, called Movie Magic, into Walmarts and convenience stores around Toronto lately. So far, there are 68 of these Redbox look-alikes littered around the city, with more promised if it does well.

Redbox, or at least something like it, has been in popular demand in Canada since the service got really big down south. There are over 25,000 of them in the US, and it has the fifth highest video rental revenue in the country. They also pride themselves on their inexpensive rental charge: $1 per night (plus a dollar for each day late). Who can beat that when all you want is to watch a film that night and then be done with it. No 5-day rentals starting at four bucks; no waiting for it to come in the mail; no bandwidth overages.

In this early stage, Movie Magic is already in the minus with respect to the American version. Instead of asking for $1 for the first day, it'll set you back a toonie. And it doesn't come with a free pack of microwavable popcorn or milk duds.

Then there is the selection of movies. At the moment, there are 226 films to choose from in the kiosk at G's Fine Foods near the intersection of Bloor and Spadina. You can pick movies like Black Swan, 2012, or 127 Hours, but good luck finding anything either made before four years ago, Unrated, or a little bit daring (my hopes of watching Dogtooth tonight will just not be fulfilled).

With movie rental options in Toronto essentially limited to Netflix streaming, local video rental stores, Rogers Video, and bumming one off your friend, it's not difficult to imagine the market for these kiosks. They certainly get a consistent flow of customers into convenient stores, pretty much suggesting we stop in once a day. Need to return the disc you rented yesterday? While you're there, might as well pick up a pack of Chips Ahoy and, why not, how about another movie tonight?

But what does this mean for a rental option like The Film Buff who employs knowledgable people and offers a vast selection of titles, no matter how obscure? Will their business, or cinema as we know it, be hurt by this, or is it just another option to help ease the planning of our evening activities? Have any of you rented from a Movie Magic kiosk yet? If not, will you try it out?

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