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How to Find the Best Deals on DVD and Blu-ray Movies
Who doesn’t love a good movie? The big screen, the laughter of a shared joke, the epic scope and massive explosions of a major blockbuster; whatever you want to see, there’s a movie for you. Advancements in TV, sound system and Blu-ray technologies mean that it's easier than ever to bring the theater experience right to your home.
While DVD’s and Blu-ray movies are a far cheaper option than going to the theater, they're not necessarily a bargain if you pay full retail price. However, there are plenty of deals to be had if you know when and where to look.
Do People Still Buy DVDs?
Even though DVD and Blu-ray disc sales declined by 12% in the U.S. in 2015, sales figures still stand at a staggering $6.1 billion, according to the Digital Entertainment Group. Digital sales have increased by 18%, on the other hand. Fortune.com also reports that 43.5 million households in the U.S. still have a Blu-ray player, so don't expect movies on disc to be a thing of the past anytime soon.
One big selling point for buying a physical disc is that movie lovers get more of the things they enjoy, like special features, deleted scenes and director's commentary not available with the standard or digital edition of a movie. Some DVDs and Blu-rays also offer an exclusive slipcase cover or even a metal Steelbook case. It's one of the tactics movie studios implemented to keep people buying their movies once they're done playing in theaters.
When Is the Right Time to Buy?
This is the biggest question to ask, and the answer depends on several factors, including popularity, whether the movie or its source material has a large fan base, and whether there are a lot of special features on the disc.
“You know what your problem is, it's that you haven't seen enough movies - all of life's riddles are answered in the movies.” – Steve Martin
Generally speaking, the older a movie is, the cheaper DVD it’s going to be, regardless if you buy it new or used. That applies to most movies put out by major studios. However, Disney, owner of the Marvel Studios and Star Wars franchises, follow their own path. Their prices remain at a premium throughout the lifespan of the movie and rarely go on sale. When they do, it’s to support the sales of a recent release or for a special occasion. For example, when "The Force Awakens" hit the market, we saw tons of deals (like this one) for all of the other movies in the original and prequel trilogies. Outside of new releases, Black Friday is one of the only other times we see sales on Disney DVDs and Blu-ray
When to buy will is also influenced by whether you want bonus features or not. If you just want the basic DVD, waiting is your best bet for a good deal. But if you want the bonus material, definitely buy the movie the first week after it's released, as this is often the best time to find a deal for special edition sets or bonus feature DVDs. This is also true if you want retailer exclusives, since they tend to sell out quickly. For our purposes, let’s use the recent release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" as an example. Take a look at the prices over the first five weeks of release across four of the major retailers:
DVD/Blu-ray Combo pack
The first two weeks the movie was on the market, prices didn't change at all, but by week five, prices crept upwards for the DVD at Target and for the DVD/Blu-ray Combo pack everywhere except Best Buy, whose higher price remained the same. (If you're interested in an in-depth look at prices for this movie when it was released, check out my previous thread on this topic here.)
Where to Buy
For a movie like Star Wars with strong brand recognition, all of the big retailers (like Amazon, Best Buy, Target and Walmart) are pretty competitive when it comes to price. Sometimes the difference in price is just pennies between stores. From studying pricing trends of new releases, I’ve noticed that typically, but not always, Amazon and Walmart are your best bet for finding cheap DVDs.
If you don’t mind buying used, there are a lot of ways you can save. Several retailers thrive off of the used DVD and Blu-ray movie industry, and you can save close to 50% in some cases. F.Y.E.com, GoHastings.com and FamilyVideo.com are some of the more popular options. Buying used will definitely net you some impressive savings. For example, if you're looking at used versions of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," you can find prices as low as $8.99 for the DVD and $11.99 for the Blu-ray combo pack at FamilyVideo.com, which is a pretty slick deal when you consider that the movie has only been available for a few weeks.
You can also find the occasional big sales on these used DVD/Blu-ray sites, which could score you even better deals. If you sign up for their promotional emails, you’ll also get exclusive notice of coupons and sales.
Digital Download vs. Disc
If you really love to stream and/or download your movies, you have tons of options these days, including Amazon Prime Video, FandangoNow, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix and VUDU. The convenience that comes with a digital download is hard to beat. Playing movies in your car or streaming to your television makes your entire video collection available to you at the touch of a button, with no physical discs at all. But is going digital going to save you money? The answer is that it depends on how old the movie is and whether there is a sale going on.
Looking at “The Force Awakens” again, you'll find prices of $14.99 for the Standard Definition version and $19.99 for the High Definition version available at Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play and VUDU. So, pretty standard no matter where you purchase it. If you want to buy a code for the digital movie at BestBuy.com or Target.com, the price is $24.99, as they ship the code to you in the mail and make you pay shipping fees too. Only go that route if you hate money.
In this case, the digital version costs the same as the physical disc version, so there is no deal here. You get more for your money by getting all three types of media (DVD, Blu-ray, digital copy) in the combo pack for the same exact price as the digital version alone.
But there are definitely great deals to be had on digital media, like these two recent sales, for example. Digital copies of hit Disney movies like “Frozen”, “Cinderella” or “The Good Dinosaur” for only $5? That is a serious deal, as Disney always prices their physical discs at a high level. So basically, always be on the lookout for sales.
Resources and Savings Tips
Now that we’ve discussed strategies on when and where to buy movies, and in which format, here are a few more ways to save.
1) Price matching: This is one of the best strategies in your arsenal. Almost every retail store out there price matches with Amazon or other retailers. Try using Google Shopping, which lists what each store charges for an item, to get a snapshot of the various prices before you purchase, and then price match it at the store of your choice. No shipping charges, no hassles, all savings.
2) Browser Extensions: If you have the Chrome browser, be sure to install a couple of extensions that will help you save. While these are not specific to movies, they could certainly be applied to your DVD, Blu-ray and digital download purchases.
a) Keepa is one that works on Amazon, telling you the price history of an item in a graph format so you can figure out whether the price is a good one or if you should wait for the price to drop.
b) Honey is an extension that will automatically search any discount codes in its database and see if they will apply to your order on any retailer’s website.
3) Slickdeals: We would be remiss if we didn't mention our own awesome deal-finding tools. Simply searching for an item using the Slickdeals search engine will give you an idea of price history and past deals on an item. Additionally, you can create a deal alert and be notified as soon as a new deal is posted on the item you're looking for. If it’s an especially hot deal, getting that alert right away will help you get in on it before the item sells out.
4) Store Loyalty Programs and Credit Cards: Find out whether your favorite retailer has a rewards program. Best Buy's program, My Best Buy, for example, gets you a point for every dollar spent at Best Buy. Every 250 points is equal to a $5 reward certificate, which can add up quickly if you're in the market for a big ticket item. Buying a TV, for example, could earn you enough rewards to buy a few movies to watch on that new TV of yours. If you're a serious movie buyer and typically buy from one specific store, you might also consider a store credit card, especially if it earns you points and other rewards. Best Buy and Walmart, for example, both offer rewards credit cards, while Target's REDcard offers discounts and free shipping.
5) Coupons/Rebates – There are plenty of coupons and rebates to be had when buying movies. Check out our movie deals page for all of the best deals on DVDs, Blu-ray movies and digital downloads. Additionally, be sure to bookmark the store page for your favorite retailer to stay updated on any specials they might be having. You could also go the more traditional route and check the Sunday papers for coupon packets. Disney takes these coupons one step further. If you are a member of Disney Movie Rewards (free to join) and earned 250 points by entering codes from Disney movie products, you can redeem your points for a $5 off certificate to use on a Disney movie here.
6) Discounted and Free Gift Cards: Find discounted gift cards from stores like CardCash.com, CardPool.com or GiftCards.com to save some extra cash. You can save up to 35% on gift cards on these sites. Make sure you join their mailing lists to get the inside scoop on sales as well. But what's even better than discounted gift cards? Free gift cards! Apps like Checkpoints and Shopkick let you scan merchandise for points when you’re in a store, while Swagbucks gives you rewards for watching videos, taking surveys and completing special offers. Whether you earn free gift cards or buy discounted ones, you can almost always find gifts cards redeemable at your favorite DVD or Blu-ray retailer.
How do you add your favorite movies to your collection without breaking the bank? Let us know your strategies in the comments section below!
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