Amazon has announced the end of the LoveFilm By Post DVD rental service, 15 years after it launched.
Citing a “decreasing demand” for the service, Amazon - who acquired the company in 2011 along with it’s 1.4 million subscribers - has announced that the service will cease operations in October. "We have very much enjoyed delivering the Lovefilm By Post service to our customers," read a statement. "However, over the last few years we've seen a decreasing demand for DVD and Blu-ray rental as customers increasingly move to streaming. We are committed to finding alternative roles for all Lovefilm employees within Amazon."
Amazon has been notoriously coy about the number of subscribers to it’s streaming service, Prime, but some estimates place the figure somewhere between 65 million and 80 million globally. However, while the streaming service may be popular, the demise of Lovefilm is a blow for die-hard movie fans. Several customers have taken to twitter to vent their frustration at the demise of DVD rentals as streaming surges ahead in popularity.
“Farewell LOVEFiLM By Post. You had a better back catalogue than Netflix, Sky Movies, or Amazon Prime Video,” wrote @simonUK. “A shame that Amazon is closing down #lovefilm. I've relied on it for over 12 years or so. Can anyone recommend a UK equivalent?” wrote @LastPicBlog. Equivalents such as Cinema Paradiso do exist, providing lovers of physical film media with options from over 90,000 titles, and no doubt many avid movie lovers will switch over to the service in hopes of continuing to discover cinema new and old.
Pioneers in the field
The premise was a simple one - for a monthly fee, subscribers could order DVDs or Blu-rays through the post, and simply return them back once finished.
The service went through a massive growth period, and thanks to ten mergers, it became one of the largest online DVD rental services throughout the UK and wider Europe. There was at one point a download service to accompany the postal rental, although this ceased operations in 2011. For people with limited access to amenities or indeed anyone who doesn’t want to be beholden to broadband speed when streaming, physical DVD rental proved absolutely ideal. The service also catered to film buffs by offering a wide range of different and often niche titles.
However, as the way in which we consume media is evolving, the focus is becoming more and more on streaming. The success of paid-for services like Netflix and the emergence of original programming along with movie rentals is altering the film landscape; it is thought that by 2020, Netflix and Amazon will overtake UK cinema box office spending. According to figures from PwC, spending for on-demand streaming services will grow by over 30 per cent to £1.42 billion at the turn of the decade. “Demand for internet video shows no signs of slowing down,” said Phil Stokes, UK head of entertainment and media at PwC. “The figures do not signal the death of film. Look at the box office performance of films such as Star Wars: Rogue One or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to see the significant amount of enthusiasm for blockbuster movies out there.”
Postal DVD service still available
In an article in The Guardian, journalist Ian Dunt laments the loss of the DVD postal service, noting that streaming services are not a replacement for this niche market. “Streaming services are for people who want to watch something when they get home and aren’t really that fussed what it is. They’re not for people who will carefully write down the names of films when they read a good review, or whose first response to a film they loved is to watch everything else that director ever did. They struggle to cater for people with specific tastes, who are into Korean horror or screwball comedies from the 1930s and 40s. But Lovefilm did.”
For those movie buffs still looking for their fix of screwball comedies, there is hope. Services like Cinema Paradiso exist, providing post rental for DVD and Blu Ray titles, and giving lovers of traditional film media formats access to a similar service.