Redbox: An Interactive Database
By Rene T. Rodriquez
Watching a film in 2013 has evolved since the inception of rental stores and theatres as the predominant means of consuming movies. As Netflix continues to develop into a more internet streaming service, and other similar platforms such as Blockbuster, Apple, and Vudu, offering an a la carte platform with “pay as you go”, instead of paying a flat fee of $7.99 that Netflix charges subscribers, the future of physical discs appear on the verge of extinction, but for Redbox, sales have grown to over 50% over the first quarter this year, and has shown no signs of slowing down. June became the third highest rental month for the chain in the history of the company, but as Redobox continues to thrive, why did competitors like Blockbuster all but disappeared?
The more I think about the concepts and notions about Database Cinema from Menovich and Kinder, I conjure up these sentiments toward the way we watch a film, and how we interact with the medium. On any given night, a Redbox Kiosk outside a grocery store can have five people in a line. What these people are doing, and perhaps without realizing, they are interacting with a contrived database. Contrived in the sense that each Kiosk is stocked with a fix amount of DVD and Blu-Ray discs that you can rent for $1.20-$1.50 a day. Although they are few older films, Redbox is predominately filled with the newest releases, and in the second quarter, redesigned their kiosk to carry 80 more discs. But while Redbox improves their physical apparatuses, the interactive experience with cinema remains constant. The task is quite simple, you walk to the machine, and from a touch screen, you choose from a variety of films that are offered from that specific kiosk. Redbox gives you the option with both formats: standard DVD or Blu-Ray disc. The Redbox platform provides the consumer with a different cinematic experience in an Internet driven market. It provides interactivity, one that the consumer comes in contact with the film; a film becomes tangible, and human contact with the disc ensures the consumer of their predilection for an encounter with a physical database. Sure, some may argue that the experience is similar in the streaming world that offers an Internet database of films in the comfort of your living room, and the only exertion from the consumer is simply holding a remote from multiple devices such as Roku, Apple, and Sony Play Station to name a few, but Redbox enables you to feel present with your desire toward interactivity. The machine itself is somewhat cumbersome, and people who are undecided about their purchase tend to make lines quite longer then usual. Redbox encourages customers to sign up for an account online, to discover new releases and reserve specific films you will like to purchase. When you arrive to your nearest kiosk, they will have your profile on the touchscreen from a swipe of a credit card. The company is known for giving free credits for DVD and Blu-Ray purchases through email that are good for a limited time. It provides the customer a way of experiencing the Redbox platform perhaps for the first time or for repeated customers.
Redbox has slowly released their streaming platform earlier this year with over 5,000 titles to choose from. Although not as large from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, Redbox entices the consumer with unlimited streaming, and four free credits when visiting the kiosk. The digital age we found ourselves in has altered the way we view a film. In Anne Friedberg’s “The End of Cinema: Multimedia and Technological Change,” she details an example of how film is altered into a digital image, and no longer photographic based. She cites Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as she asserts, the image transforms from its celluloid inception into a digital representation, and no longer is the “film projection based, its implied interactivity turns the spectator into a user” (16). What I have gather thus far in the digitalized film experience is the format remains constant, it is the way the movie is projected and consume that is alter. I define format in terms of presentation, the way the film appears to the viewer, a film will always involved some sort of screen, that will always remain constant, but how the film image appears vis a vis a computer screen, television, IPhone, and of course, the theatre screen, the film going experience continues to evolved. There have been contentious debates with purist who object to the predilections new generations of film viewers experience a film. Directors such as David Lynch have expressed their concern and disdain toward how a film is projected in the digital age. With cellular phones having the capability of projecting a film, many filmmakers like Lynch believe the viewer will be losing a large part of the mise en scene that normally will be perceived on larger formats.
Redbox continues to expand, and thrive in an ever-changing consumer market. What Redbox offers is an immediate experience with the physical object of a film, and provides a service that is both interactive and accessible. The cinematic experience in 2013 is both a private and public occurrence, the desire to interact with Redbox’s contrived database is merely scratching the surface toward an interactive experience with an art form forging a new identity in a digital renaissance that is 2013.