Although Netflix is primarily known these days as a streaming service, the company got its start in 1998 with its DVD-by-mail rentals. With that service shutting down on September 29, 2023, remaining subscribers will have to turn elsewhere to rent DVDs.
For movie fans looking for titles that aren’t available to stream, or for people who live in areas with unreliable or slow internet access, DVDs are still an essential resource. Here are five services that offer monthly DVD subscriptions similar to the Netflix model.
GameFly’s main business is its Netflix-style subscription plan for video game rentals, but subscribers can rent movies on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD as well. Although GameFly has been touting its movie rentals on social media since Netflix announced the shutdown of its DVD service, movies remain a lower priority compared to video games, and as such the selection is limited. There are around 2,000 titles available, largely focused on popular mainstream releases.
Plans that include unlimited movie and video game rentals start at $17.95 per month for one rental at a time, while unlimited movie-only plans start at $9.95 per month for one rental at a time on DVD or Blu-ray. Dedicated cinephiles probably won’t find enough worthwhile choices, but for existing video game subscribers who are looking to occasionally rent movies, or customers without high-speed internet access who only want to watch recent mainstream releases, GameFly could be a good option.
Established in 1999, Cafe DVD is undergoing a much-needed refurbishing in anticipation of an influx of former Netflix customers. With 60,000 titles available, Cafe DVD features movies and TV series from a range of genres and eras, with curated lists including staff picks and critics’ choices. Netflix subscribers with long queues can even import their queue by saving it as a CSV file and uploading it to Cafe DVD, automatically populating a new wish list.
During this period of transition, plenty of titles are listed as “checked out,” but Cafe DVD promises that its library is continuing to expand, and the company is actively soliciting feedback. Subscription plans start at $9.99 per month for a limit of two DVDs, and $19.99 per month for unlimited DVDs per month, two at a time. Cafe DVD also offers rentals on a per-disc basis, although that entails return deadlines and paid shipping, making the subscription option much more cost-effective.
3D Blu-ray Rental
Its website may look like a relic of an earlier era, but 3D Blu-ray Rental has been offering rental subscriptions for fans of hard-to-find titles since 2011. As the name implies, the service focuses on Blu-ray titles, which includes both 2D and 3D releases, as well as 4K UHD, but no standard DVDs. That makes this an ideal service for more discerning movie fans, who are looking for rentals that will take advantage of a high-end home-viewing set-up.
With more than 20,000 titles available, 3D Blu-ray Rental has an extensive library of high-quality releases, including mainstream titles and releases from boutique labels like Arrow and Vinegar Syndrome. Plans start at $8.99 per month for one disc at a time with a limit of two discs per month. 3D Blu-ray Rental also offers a limited selection of video games, and per-disc rentals are available, starting at $4.99 per disc with free shipping both ways.
Expanding on an existing business selling used DVDs and Blu-rays online via sites like eBay, DVD Inbox promises a Netflix-like service with “hundreds of thousands” of movies. Unlike other Netflix DVD alternatives, DVD Inbox is a new service launching specifically in response to the shutdown of Netflix’s DVD rentals, and it doesn’t have the track record for rentals that other companies have. At the moment, customers can only sign up for a waitlist, but the company has been active on Reddit and other social media answering questions and responding to feedback.
Once the service launches, plans will start at $9.99 per month for two discs at a time with a limit of two per month, including both DVDs and Blu-rays. DVD Inbox offers the chance to import your Netflix queue via CSV file, so your watch list can be fully ready to go once subscriptions are active.
Like fellow nonprofit local video store Scarecrow Video in Seattle, Chicago’s Facets offers its large library of often obscure titles for rent by mail. Unlike Scarecrow, which only rents titles on a per-disc basis, Facets offers a monthly subscription service, although it can be pricey for anyone who isn’t able to rent titles in person. Still, Facets may be the ultimate subscription service for hardcore cinephiles, with a library of more than 45,000 titles that includes out-of-print and foreign releases, and even movies on VHS.
Plans start at $10 per month or $100 per year for three rentals per month, but each mailing also includes a charge of $8-$11 for shipping, which can nearly double the monthly cost. Selections are grouped together in order to save on shipping, but that also means you need to watch three movies at a time before receiving your next shipment. For Chicago locals, membership also includes discounts to movie screenings and film festival passes at Facets.