Renting iTunes movies and the value of ownership

“Back in September Apple made a welcome improvement to iTunes by automatically upgrading, at no cost, its customers’ already-purchased movies to 4K resolution,” Khoi Vinh writes for “This was laudably customer-friendly but I also found it to be a savvy move in that it underscores the value of owning media.”

“At a minimum, the ownership of films allowed under the current model preserves a meaningfulness that has largely disappeared from music. I rarely buy albums anymore because I can listen to nearly anything I want at any time I want,” Vinh writes. “That’s a tremendous luxury but the flip side is that I don’t care about music nearly as much anymore, and I don’t really feel like any of it is ‘mine.'”

“By contrast, I do feel a certain pride of ownership over the movies in my collection, whether they’re digital or on physical media. These are movies that I’ve selected to be part of my own personal archive, that I plan to return to again and again,” Vinh writes. “To that point, it occurs to me that Apple could go even further in emphasizing the value of ownership by helping their customers convert rentals to purchases. If you rent a movie on iTunes, Apple should offer to let you pay the difference between the rental price and the purchase price to actually own it. To keep this reasonable, this offer could be limited to the rental period, which Apple also increased to forty-eight hours back in September. ”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Music is listened to over and over. Movies are different and they are naturally consumed differently than music. The movies we’d want to rewatch over and over again number in the single digits.

Furthermore, if you find yourself watching run-of-the-mill movies and/or episodes of TV shows over and over, you’re either under the age of four or in need of professional help.

That said, it’s certainly reasonable to suggest that on the rare occasion when you happen to rent a Citizen Kane, you should be able to apply the rental fee towards the full purchase price.


  1. I differ with MDN in that I treat movies like music. I have a few dozen movies that I have watched multiple times and will watch again. I like the idea of allowing the rental fee to be used if I decide to purchase the movie. I usually like to see the movie before deciding to add it to my collection..

  2. If the rental fee went toward the purchase price, I would rent a whole lot more often. Just the same way I buy one episode at a time on tv shows and then eventually purchase the season. I have only ever watched a couple of the seasons more than once and maybe a quarter of my movies more than once,.. but I also share via family sharing and I’m not the only one watching these movies.

    1. I’d never pay to 1.99 / 2.99 to rent an episode of a TV Series. There is nothing worth spending that kind off money for.I purchase music however, I find my Apple Music subscription wasteful. Today’s music is terrible in my opinion, I guess plenty like it but not for me. I’m about to the point where I’ve purchased the music I care to listen to. It’s the industries either Hollywood or music that has ruined it.. It’s simply junk today.. Movies are terrible and actors being paid more than ever, what a joke.

  3. Apple has done this for me before when I have simply asked. They refunded the rental so I could purchase the film and didn’t even ask for verification once I had done so (I forwarded the purchase confirmation anyway). Absolutely great customer service

  4. MDN Take is quite close.

    Most people aren’t like the writer here. Most people buy their music and rent their movies, for reasons that are obvious to, well, most people. As MDN said, we listen to the music we like over and over. There is no movie in the world that any average person had seen more times than having heard their favourite album (or song). Or, to put it another way, if I were to try and watch my favourite film, as many times as I had heard my favourite recording (actually, even any one of my fifty favourite albums), I would likely never ever want to watch that film again. I would have memorised every line of it, every editor’s cut, every goof or continuity error…

    The only movies that I found worth buying are children’s movies. Rather than renting each of them ten times, I simply bought the ones that my girls liked, and during their childhood, they simply watched them whenever they wanted to. A collection of about 40 movies was large enough to satisfy their appetites. The collection is, at this point, largely collecting dust, but it has completed its mission — it saw my children through their childhood and saved me money on rental fees. I have very few movies for myself, and I rarely watch them.

    Having said all of that, I have to admit that Apple Music threw a bit of a wrench into this whole concept of owning (music) vs. renting (movies). Now that Apple Music allows me unlimited access to (practically) all the world’s recorded music, I very rarely buy my music anymore.

    However, I do feel a sense of virtual ownership for music that I had added to my library from Apple Music. I listen to a lot of different stuff (streaming), but I choose only a few to add to my library (and possibly download to my devices). In my mind, those get the same treatment as the albums I had bought (when the physical media used to be the only way to buy music).

    1. Well, I have to disagree respectfully. I now listen to music exclusively through AppleMusic. My CD’s are becoming wall art like my vinyl. But, I still buy movies. Sight unseen. I was very happy with the 4K upgrade. I watch all director commentaries. You can’t do that in 48 hours.

    2. If what you mean by “most people” is as in “no one that I know or have ever known” rents movies over buying them, then I’m in complete agreement.
      Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone, nor have ever known anyone who prefer renting movies over purchasing them.

    1. My wife and I have several Halloween and Christmas movies we watch each year during the season. Renting every year would be a waste.
      Physical discs have come down in price, and with the sales iTunes and others have for digital copy, it saves money in the long run.

  5. I can understand the ownership of movies you really enjoy. Purchasing also allows you to view the movie when you have friends over that enjoy the same types of things you do. Also for those with inconsistent or slow Internet connections, being able to download or purchase physical media may be a preferred option.

  6. I have over 500 movies in my collection. I’d have at least half as many again if I could rent to see if I liked a film and then add it to my library during the rental period. I believe in acquiring any movie I’d watch 2-3 times in my lifetime. I get them and the whole family can share them. I’ve asked Apple for this option at least 50 times via the page. I suspect the challenge is in the licensing for rental vs purchase. They most likely apply to different agreements and the funds may not be able to be transferred so easily from a legal perspective. Maybe someone else has insight on this.

    Oh, also iTunes has no idea how to manage a library the size of mine. 2TB of movies it a bit too much to scroll through efficiently.

    1. I have a library of similar size of iTunes purchases, plus another 150 or so older DVDs I never bothered to re-purchase. Two things I’d love from Apple – ability to “upgrade” older DVDs to iTunes purchases (ala Movies Anywhere and Vudu) and criticially, improve iTunes handling of large movie libraries. Takes forever to re-cache image art – it’s painful.

      Oh, and if I could rent first and apply to purchase, I’d probably buy more even more movies. Today I only buy what I think I would enjoy enough to purchase and rent nothing.

  7. In my mind you don’t really own movies anymore. You own the right to stream them for as long as your chosen service exists. The digital age hasn’t been kind to the concept of ownership. Note that you can’t sell, lend, or give your movies away like things you really own. There are a few advantages to digital movies (no scratched discs, at home purchase, etc), but overall I think it’s a net loss.

  8. “In my mind you don’t really own movies anymore.”


    Really? My baby brother and his family moved to Austin last year. He handed me a box of over 50 DVD movies, complete Star Wars collection in widescreen and more. They are sitting on my bookshelf.


    1. DVD’s in a box. Really?
      Is your reading comprehension that bad?
      This explains many of your posts.
      Let’s break this down for everyone (meaning you) to understand. The post you replied to was in reference to DIGITAL media. The kind you purchase from iTunes. Not ACTUAL discs, tapes, 8 tracks that you actually do own. Yes, you own your physical discs that are deteriorating on your shelves in the dismal palace you lurk in. But, others are taking advantage of digital media. And, yes. Clayton has a point. We only “own” it as long as Apple is in business. We all are betting that Apple will be in business as long as we are living. I know I’ve outlived some of my VHS tapes. So, I’m all aboard the digital train. Plus, you can have your whole movie library available wherever you go. My family stays at a beach house every year and we hook up my AppleTV to the movie theater in our home and different family members watch all different kinds of movies that I’ve added to my library. It’s quite interesting to see what different family members pick to watch! So, to Clayton, for me it has been a net gain. Now, to Goeb, stop being a condescending jerk. Actually READ and comprehend. Your world will become a better place. Best wishes to you.

      1. First off, the multiple “Really?” entries were totally unintended and a mistake. Visiting my sister last night and using her shiny new PC (ugh) for the first time, I never saw it coming and did not work the keyboard properly.

        If I misjudged the post, as to ONLY referring to digital movies, then MY BAD and apologies.

        Have over a thousand VHS tapes and DVDs on my library shelves, all in fine shape with no noticeable deterioration. I’m slowly converting ALL to digital versions on my Mac for the same movie library portability.

        When complete, will own hard copies and digital copies. The operative two words, I OWN, and you guys sorta own if Apple remains upright.

        So needless to say, the streaming, digital services and iTunes movies are of no concern to me at this time. Those who enjoy them, sounds great and all power to you.

        ONE: “Yes, you own your physical discs that are deteriorating on your shelves in the dismal palace you lurk in.”

        TWO: “Now, to Goeb, stop being a condescending jerk.”

        Now, to Gstarr, obvious you qualify for a condescending jerk and don’t practice what you preach. That is your choice, our world a better place, or NOT …

  9. There are movies that are evergreens and movies that are throwaways just like in pop music. Not many need a copy of Ice, Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice, but Queen’s Innuendo Album is still amazing.

    In film, Dark Passage with Bogie and Bacall is great as are any number of other great films. Nothing wrong with taking a look at Full Metal Jacket despite my having seen it at the theater- it is just like re-reading an old book and sometimes you pick up on stuff you missed the first time.

    Then there are concert films, like Dire Straits Alchemy, comedies like Blazing Saddles and others that wear very well over time. I wouldn’t want a personal copy of Space Balls, but my Dances with Wolves is nice to look at from time to time.

  10. I too can not agree with MDN on this one. I have around 500 movies from iTunes. I really appreciated Apple’s 4K policy and hope it continues. I’ve a collection of Christmas movies that are seen every year and added too. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched “Top Gun” and “Dirty Dozen”. I’ve got about 25 to 30 movies that I watch either the entire movie or parts of them over and over and this list is growing. I buy old movies and love to watch them. I wanted to own them so I could see them when I feel like it. I don’t have this same feeling for music. Sure I have my favorite collection and a Christmas collection that I travel with but a movie for me is different. I’m sorry that MDN has not found a few movies that they just want to see from time to time over again. Changing to a “rent to own plan” would be great for me and I hope Apple will consider it.

    1. “I’ve got about 25 to 30 movies that I watch either the entire movie or parts of them over and over and this list is growing. I buy old movies and love to watch them. I wanted to own them so I could see them when I feel like it.”

      Exactly the same on my end.

      I BUY and OWN my movies, over a thousand and have no interest in renting them. Unless of course, Apple throws in an incentive like rent to own, then I might rent my first movie on iTunes.

      Like you, I watch classic movies over and over again, the older the better. I mostly peg my yearly repeat watching habit to themes and timeframes in the flick.

      Some examples:

      Every St. Patrick’s Day watch the “Molly Maguires” about early Irish coal miners starring Sean Connery.

      Every Memorial Day “A river runs through it” starring Brad Pitt during the height of dry fly fishing in trout season.

      Every Labor Day watch “Picnic” with William Holden and Kim Novak.

      Every Columbus Day watch the “Trouble with Harry” the only Hitchcock comedy ever made starring John Forysthe and Shirley MacLaine’s movie debut.

      Every Thanksgiving start with “Gone with the wind” with Clark Gable, followed by “Nobody’s fool” with Paul Newman and “Grumpy old men” with Jack Lemon all involving Thanksgiving themes.

      Last but not least two of the greatest Christmas movies ever made “It’s a wonderful life” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed followed by a “Christmas story” starring Darren McGavin and many others like “Holiday affair” with Robert Mitchum.

      Could also add chick movies around Valentine’s Day, bikini movies in summer, 1930s RKO horror movies for Halloween and plenty of winter themed movies like “Fargo” starring Frances McDormand.

      On the flip side of calendar theme time peg some I watch yearly are evergreen (good anytime) like the classic film noir genre, westerns, sci-fi, action adventure to name a few.

      Guess I got carried away. ☺️

      But I love fine flicks …

  11. I have thousands of movies that I’ve bought in DVD form and digitized, or bought in downloaded from iTunes,, or other services. I collect movies like I collect books. I’ve got dozens that I love and will re-watch many times. I love having them on my computer in iTunes and serving to my AppleTV. I do rent some films, but I am more likely to just buy if I think I’m going to like it … or if I actually did like it at the Theater.

    Regarding music … I have many hundreds of CDs of music that I LONG AGO ripped to iTunes and have listened to on iPods and, now, my phone as well as over iTunes. I have iTunes Match for that collection, and I have Apple Music for the music I don’t own.

    In short, I’m a both/and kind of guy.

  12. Frankly, most movies now are so rubbish I resent any money I spend on them. I get 6 free film tickets a year through my bank but I only use them to go and see the star wars films, even with the free ticket the time and expense of going is so much that I’d rather go and see some live entertainment for the same money or less. Typically if a movie is any good now it’ll still be good when it’s available on TV through whatever package I already subscribe to. Even if you buy/rent a film individually I prefer to wait until they slash the price.

    1. “I get 6 free film tickets a year through my bank but I only use them to go and see the star wars films”

      Spot on! Present day baby boomer movie makers in their sixties are all about publishing rubbish based on the sex, drugs and rock and roll mantra the millennialists know little about and the flower power children cannot move forward.

      EXACTLY like you, the last movies in 20 years I have paid to see in the movie theaters are Star Wars, Batman and Star Trek.

      One exception, and please excuse the shameless self promotion, is a documentary called “Kids for cash” nominated for an Oscar where I appeared silent in three background shots.

      Other than that, when they slash the price I typically pluck a widescreen DVD out of the Walmart $3.50-$5.00 bin. If my selection sux, well at least I did not overpay for theater popcorn …

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