The Netflix DVD rental service has fundamentally changed how I rent movies. I've used it for two and a half years. My DVDs come quickly, the selection is good, the site is stable, and they've never sent me the wrong disc.
But recently the cool kids have been switching to a competing service called GreenCine (which they say is pronounced "green scene"). GreenCine offers the same rental model at the same price, but their raison d'être is that they have a selection that better appeals to cinephiles and alternative movie lovers.
I'm not a very big watcher of anime or midnight horror, but there have been a few times when a movie that I've wanted to see was available on DVD but was not available at Netflix. GreenCine claims to fix this. I've been so happy with Netflix that I haven't wanted to jump ship without more info, so for the last few months I've had accounts at both services so I can compare them side-by-side.
Here are a few observations:
A list of such movies:
Days of Being Wild,
The Kingdom (I and II),
Tales from the Gimli Hospital,
Decline fo the American Empire,
The Gospel According to St. Matthew,
Day of Wrath,
Summer at Grandpa's (and other region 0 Hou discs),
Salt of the Earth,
Sunrise (older disc only),
and The Blue Angel (German and English versions).
A Couch in New York
Finding Buck McHenry
(two minor movies from great filmmakers). Don't compare the sizes of these lists. Since I'm conducting this comparison in an ad hoc way, my daily routine doesn't regularly uncover movies that Netflix stocks but GreenCine doesn't. If I switched to using GreenCine for my main queue and Netflix only for those things GreenCine doesn't stock, I might get a better idea of what GreenCine lacks. These discs that I've found could be the only two that I care anything about.
UPDATE: Suddenly the availability of three items in my stuck GreenCine queue have turned to green, which means "available now". I wonder if their queue processing algorithm goes into "unstick" mode in such cases. My queue was only stuck for about a day and a half.
But that's not noteworthy unless it happens frequently. What's interesting is how the services deal with it. When you have a problem disc at Netflix, you go to your queue and click "report shipping problem" which guides you through a short wizard to identify the issue and notify them if necessary. The nice thing about this is that when you have a problem disc, Netflix tells you to send it back and immediately sends you the next thing in your queue without waiting to receive the bad disc.
At GreenCine, I had to look around on their site for a while before I knew what to do with my cracked disc — the FAQ says you can send email to their support group. You're also supposed to check a "damaged" box on your return envelope, which you can also do at Netflix, but I was looking around online so that I wouldn't lose a day or two while my report travelled through the mail. Once I figured out how to notify GreenCine — by email — a person responded via email and I got a replacement disc likety-split. This crystalizes the difference between the two services for me, as they are today: GreenCine is more human but less streamlined, and I guess I'd prefer streamlined, if all else were equal.
The bottom line: for myself, I haven't decided. I don't think a dozen exclusive movies and a few queue features are enough to get me to leave Netflix, which I'm quite happy with. Once I've seen the existing exclusives, it's not clear that GreenCine will continue to stay in front of Netflix (although they seem to think they will). I can probably rent these locally, somewhere, on the relatively rare occasion that a region 1 DVD exists and I want to see it and Netflix doesn't stock it and GreenCine does. If I were in charge of Netflix, I'd add these titles and torpedo GreenCine's primary advantage overnight.
But if I were someone just starting with one of these services, especially if I lived in the Bay Area, I'd probably go with GreenCine.
That's a really informative article, Rob. I've heard rumors that one or both of these sites plan to start offering non-region 1 titles...have you heard anything about this? That would immediately preference me.
I would love some discs from other regions, too. The two services are so close that if one of them started offering a bunch of non-region 1 discs, it would easily tip the scales.
GreenCine does offer a few all-region discs, like the Hou collection (which I already own, so it doesn't affect me). They don't offer a way to search for these. In fact, their FAQ says that they're purposely keeping quiet about which ones are region 0. I'm not sure why.
Other than that, I don't know anything about what either service is planning. Do you know if there are licensing issues? I'm kind of curious about what's going to happen when the powers that be realize how easy it is to get an all-region player and how popular that's becoming (or is it just here in our little bubble?).
By the way Rob, there is a service that rents multi-region DVDs:
I've heard they're quite dependable.
Oh ho! Very cool. I may have to give this a try. It's more expensive than Netflix or GreenCine, but these truly are discs that those two services don't have. Thanks, Doug.
I tried Greencine for about six mos. Their availability situation was pretty sad---I was waiting about four months for some titles and they still hadn't become available. Their emphasis on number of titles over quantity creates a very impacted availability situation. Their customer services is good but month after month of not getting much of diddly (and their shipping situation with the USPS exacerbated this situation) drove me back to Netflix.
Thanks for that data point. I remember a couple of years ago when the Netflix availability situation was pretty spotty. They obviously solved the problem, though, and figured out how to scale. GreenCine has yet to, according to various reports like yours.
Check out GameZnFlix.com
New Game/Movie rental company with several Dist points and 28,000 Titles available. Rumor is there will be a new website soon. They have an Annual Plan of $222 for 6 dvds/games out per month. I get mine 3 days after I place my selection in my queue.
Thanks for the tip, Keith. It's interesting that Netflix, which once seemed like a crazy delusion born of the dot-com era — rent movies online? through the mail? — has become a widely imitated business model.
Unfortunately, GameZnFlix.com seems to have a very limited selection, based on a sampling of searches. It may be good for folks who are interested in games but probably not international cinema.
For the mentally liberated, the lonely folks, and fun-loving couples, Greencine has the brass to offer a serious helping of 'adult' stuff. This is what tipped the scale for me and my wife. They call it Bluecine, but its all the same service. Netflix was way too focused on being family friendly for us.
Since Netflix switched from the near-DVD-quality Windows Media player to the YouTube-quality Silverlight player, I've been looking for something better, but haven't found anything to compete with Netflix's selection when it comes to foreign and independent films.
GreenCine looked promising at first, but over half of the foreign films in my Netflix queue are not available from GreenCine. Plus Netflix has a distribution center in my town, while GreenCine is in California.
I had Greencine when I lived in San francisco and I started out happy, but then I had a problem with lost disc's. They just were not showing up in the mail. Some never came and some showed up weeks after their ETA. I complained to Green Cine since I had payed for a couple of months and pretty much got to see one film in that time span. They were very short with me and told me that they didn't control the mail--which they didn't, but neither did I. All they really would have needed to do was send me an extra film or two, but they choose to be jerks. So I cancelled. I have Netflix now and I'm pretty happy with it.
In 97, GC switched their distribution center from SF to Van Nuys, and all of a sudden it was taking 11 days on average to ship a movie and get a new movie back (compared to 2 days previously). I stuck with it for a bit, and then reluctantly switched over to Netflix.
I've been happy ever since.
It stuns me that GC even exists still. Choose any new movie, and only 5 people or so will have rated it. Do they really have that small a user base (or that small a DVD inventory)?
I also started greencine excited and got frustrated with unavailability of desired films several years ago and went to netflix. I just checked up here on greencine again to see if there are reports of improvement, which there is not. Too bad. I want to find a source for interesting docs on art, music, architecture, graphics etc. It seems there should be thousands of them by beginning, small-scale filmmakers and yet I have not been able to find them. Maybe I am just not skilled enough yet in doing research. Anyone with tips please suggest. Thanks!