In this age of digital downloads, the idea of being posted films and games on physical discs seems about as relevant as scribing a letter with a quill.
But as long as our narrow broadband pipes continue to struggle with the demands of delivering an on-demand hi-def movie, postal services like LoveFilm remain a tempting alternative. Particularly when they come in charming Gift Boxes like this one.
A Christmas-only addition to the standard mail order service, the Gift Box gives you the choice of one of two freebies if you sign up your lucky recipient to a subscription package over £32 a month (more on those later).
There’s a copy of Time Out’s 1000 Films to Change Your Life for those who need a starting point to build their rental wishlists, or you can go for a free copy of one of four DVDs: No Country for Old Men, Juno, Mamma Mia or The Dark Knight.
You won’t be short of choices after that lot either. Since LoveFilm teamed up with Amazon (its main competitor in the UK market), its library has ballooned to over 65,000 titles, including games and downloads from its digital service.
There’s a good mix of the brand new (big releases can be available on DVD only four months after hitting the cinema), the old (from Alfred Hitchcock to Billy Wilder), documentaries and classic TV series like The Wire.
Non-mainstream choices tend to take a little longer to get sent out to you, but in the main the system works well. You just pick a ‘pool’ of desired titles, prioritise them (as ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’) and you’ll get sent the highest ranked film that’s available.
How many you get at a time depends on your package: you can go for two DVDs a month (£44 a year), four DVDs a month (£90), four DVDs or games a month (£110), or an unlimited option (£130), which lets you have two DVDs at any one time. You can keep the films as long as you like, and just post them back in the envelope provided when you’re done.
Needs more Blu-ray
Downsides? While LoveFilm’s Blu-ray selection is improving, it still curiously has many titles available on HD-DVD but not on the hi-def format that’s actually alive.
There’s also a pot luck element to which films you’ll receive, which keeps things interesting but can prove frustrating if you’ve prioritised a popular film as ‘high’ but don’t get to see it until it’s residing in Blockbuster’s bargain bin.
But considering BlockBuster is only just getting its UK rental service together and Amazon was hoovered up by LoveFilm, it remains one of the best ways to get your film fix until downloads become the norm.