Digital Purchase of Movies

I’m not a huge fan of wasting money, but my goal for the year (and life) is to let kids blow money as they see fit. My kids are the biggest fans in the world of Scooby Doo. Today, a new movie of Scooby Doo was released. Since Covid-19 has disrupted the world, the movie was released straight to streaming platforms. $20 rental. $25 digital purchase.

I tried to talk my kids into waiting a month or two for the price to come down, but they didn’t want to. Mrs FP told me to shut up about it, so I did. The kids opted for the $25 purchase, which works out to be $5/kid. Not too shabby, frankly.

When I tried to purchase the movie, I came across the following scene and was horrified:

I’m not a huge fan of excessive choices. Perhaps that’s why I like Costco so much. I let the procurement department at Costco figure out what the best of each thing is and sell basically one thing. One ketchup option (heinz). One ice cream option (kirkland signature vanilla). One oatmeal option (regular cut quaker oats). Life simplified.

I spent a good hour or two learning about the different options above. In the event that one of you ever have to make a similar decision, here’s what I learned:

  • There is a subset of the population that is skeptical of digital purchases. What happens when one of these services goes belly up? Does your movie collection disappear? In that sense, you don’t own the movie, you’re just renting over a longer term. I don’t disagree with that rationale.
  • The big players seem to be Google Play, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Vudu (owned by Walmart, though Walmart is rumored to be looking to sell it?).
  • Pricing of movies can differ across platforms.
  • If one is going to start accruing movies, it would probably make sense to stick to a single platform so that all of your movies are in one place.
  • HOWEVER, Movies Anywhere solves the above problem (for participating studios). It aggregates movies purchased at Google Play, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu, Xfinity, etc. Pretty sweet! They have a Roku app which is good.

I ended up buying the movie at Vudu because I snagged a $7.50 off coupon.


2 other things I learned:

1.) Vudu lets you scan the UPC code from the case of movies you already own to add them to your library (read about the program here). If you own the DVD, it costs $2 to add the SD digital copy or $5 to upgrade to the HD/4k digital copy. If you own the physical bluray, then the HD/4k fee is only $2. If you’ve thrown away the case (like we have to save space), ask youtube for helpful tutorials. Pretty cool, though admittedly you are paying $2 for the right to not get off the sofa (and find the dvd and the dvd remote and spend the next 5 minutes trying to navigate to the menu screen where you can hit play) when you want to watch a movie.

2.) Vudu enables a “family friendly” mode for movies you own (presumably) similar to what you’d see in a TV broadcast of a movie. As of today, there are 2,099 films on their list: Alternatively, you can look up a movie by name and verify that the “Watch this with Family Play” link is present. As you can see at the bottom of the below image, Logan (an extremely violent film that unambiguously earns its R rating) is available in “Family Play” mode. I’m unsure how they’d edit the movie. Perhaps it only shows the opening and closing credits?

Some of my favorite movies of all time are Shawshank Redemption, Good Will Hunting, and Stand by Me. Unfortunately, there is no “Family Play” option for those films yet; otherwise I’d show them to my kids. I haven’t used the “Family Play” filtering personally yet, but I’ll probably do so going forward.




After writing the blog post, it occured to me that I’d never turned to bogleheads for an answer. Sure enough, there are several intelligent threads discussing this issue such as this one: Lesson learned: turn to bogleheads before google; it would have saved me some time. Such a high signal to noise ratio on that forum.

6 thoughts on “Digital Purchase of Movies”

    • It’s such a good movie! There’s quite a bit of profanity which is why I’m hesitant to show it to my young kids, but the storyline is one of my all time favorites.

  1. We use Google Play or Amazon Prime for most digital viewing. And I decided long ago to stop buying movies and just rent them whenever I want to watch them. It usually takes two to three times to watch to break even and frankly I don’t rewatch too many movies.

    For a perspective on future consolidation in the streaming field, check out

    • Counting Scooby Doo, we’ve now purchased 2 digital movies. The first was Dawn Wall a year or two back when I wanted to share it with some family members before it hit DVD. Scooby Doo was out of my control. But I agree with your assessment that owning digitally doesn’t make much sense. However, purchasing used dvds/blurays on ebay can come close to $4-5 after shipping. For new releases, people split the 3 pack (dvd, bluray, digital code) and sell them individually. We’ve done that a bunch. Mostly, we use our movie library for road trips.

      Thanks for the prof galloway link. He’s an entertaining guy. Thanks to your introduction, I now listen to his podcast.

  2. I have long been skeptical of purchasing movies digitally, principally for the reasons noted in this post. Learning about Movies Anywhere changes my perspective a bit, so thanks for educating me. Over the years my family has collected four digital movies from three different retailers. Movies Anywhere synced them all up on each of the sites! Testing this further, I created a Vudu account, linked it, and they all appeared there too. The one retailer that didn’t sync movies bought elsewhere was Apple (I’m not surprised). While I’ll still prefer checking out movies from my local public library, I will now consider opportunistically purchasing a digital movie if I see an old favorite on sale.

    • Glad that Movies Anywhere was helpful to you; I’ve enjoyed it as well. Like you, once I linked movies through M.A., it appeared on the other services as well for me (e.g. Vudu).


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