Lovefilm is the UK's largest online DVD rental service and their film inventory is now an unmatched 65,000 titles (just about every DVD released in the UK). In fact, if you let them know of a UK Region 2 DVD they don't carry, they'll get it and send it to you first. After merging with former competitors Screenselect and Amazon, Lovefilm now control perhaps two-thirds of the UK online DVD rental industry, with over 1 million customers.
Lovefilm has an excellent site design with many quirks and extras that earn it the reputation of having the best film information content. Lovefilm has little gimmicks to keep it fresh like a Queue Voyeur to see what other people are renting, in-house editorials, movie quizzes, viewer ratings, viewer reviews, and a "trailer park" on films currently in the cinema. There is an extensive section of film newsletters, interviews with stars, movie news, film festival info, film quizzes, and even competitions. You can set up an email or SMS text alert when new discs are shipped out.
In 2005, they became the first large DVD rental company to offer video game rentals as well, and now stock more titles than any other company, some 6,500+. For a more detailed review of Lovefilm's video game rental setup see the review on our sister site at Games-Rental-Guide.co.uk. They've also beefed up their Blu-ray high definition disc inventory, from some 600 in mid-2008 to 1,100 by spring 2009 and 1,800 as of 2010. And unlike US rental giant Netflix, Lovefilm has confirmed they will not be charging extra for the more expensive Blu-ray discs.
They have also been doing Video on Demand (VoD) longer than any other UK rental provider, allowing you to download an entire film to your computer for £2.99 each (or starting at £9.99 if you want to save the film). Over 4,000 feature film titles are available to rent. This is a separate, pay as you go service to their normal DVD rental plans. Video downloads like this will probably be the main entertainment venue of the future, but we reckon for the next decade or so DVDs (and Blu-Ray discs) will remain king.
Lovefilm has drawn complaints for its "fair use" policy, throttling back DVDs from high volume renters to give priority to low volume customers. This shouldn't be an issue for regular users, but high volume renters should probably look at other companies.
Nonetheless, as the market leader, Lovefilm does attract a fair bit of criticism for the inevitable problems which crop up with all the DVD rental providers. We have heard some good news on the customer relations front though; as of early 2008, Lovefilm relaunched their phone customer service line, open an impressive Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, and Saturday to Sunday, 9am to 4pm. This is a major feature which few sites boast, and we always suggest calling when you have a problem instead of using online forms or email.
Lovefilm won the prestigious British Video Association’s award for the UK’s Best Rental Service in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and we believe they have absorbed many of the beneficial policies and practices of former market leader Screenselect. In fact, Screenselect's former CEO Simon Calver is now in charge of the "new" Lovefilm. Nonetheless, there were reports of service dropping off after the late 2006 merger.
Lovefilm's DVD Distribution Centre
Lovefilm's web and distribution engine also "powers" several other UK DVD rental services, including Tesco, Sofa Cinema, EasyCinema, Odeon Direct, CD Wow, and WH Smith, so-called "white label" services. Keep in mind that you can only get one free trial period with any of these Lovefilm-powered sites--but our own opinion is that you should cut out the middleman and subscribe direct with Lovefilm if you like their system.
To give a sense of scale, they regularly send out 4 million discs per month.
Prices: Lovefilm offers a two-week free trial. You won't be able eligible for another free trial if you've already had one with any Lovefilm "powered-by" site. Their standard, unlimited subscription rates are 1 disc out for £9.99, 2 discs for £12.99, and 3 discs for £15.99. They also have capped 2 disc-per-month plan for £3.99, 3 discs total for £5.99 and 4 discs total for £7.99, but this is not cost effective.
Their new Pay as You Go plans may be convenient for someone who only wants to rent the odd film, but it is not very cost effective, starting at £9.99 for 4 rental credits (£2.50 per disc, nearly high street prices!) and working up to 15 discs for £29.85 (a slightly better £1.99 per disc). The only plus is that these credit can be used any time for up to six months, but most people would be better off on one of their unlimited tariffs.
As mentioned, Lovefilm also offer Video on Demand (VoD) film downloads for £2.99 each; entirely separate from their DVD rental tariffs.