Nathan Edwards Jun 24, 2008


At A Glance

Link to the Past

Integrated into Windows Media Center; decent catalog; multi-PC support, backup DVD burning, streaming.

The Weakest Link

Blockbuster seems to have forgotten its existence; no portable support; no HD.

The Movielink software client is integrated into both versions of Windows Media Center, so you can easily watch your rentals from the comfort of your couch, using an MCE-compatible remote.

Movie-rental outfit Blockbuster Entertainment acquired movie-download service Movielink in August 2007, but the company seems to have lost interest in its latest asset. When we contacted Blockbuster’s corporate communications department in preparation for this story, they couldn’t be bothered to provide us with Movielink’s phone number (which wasn’t listed on either company’s website). It’s easy to see why.

The fact that Movielink is integrated into Windows Media Center gives it a leg up over BitTorrent, but there’s nothing else about the service to recommend it over CinemaNow or any of the other services we tested. And if you’re interested in watching rented or purchased movies on a handheld device, Movielink isn’t for you—it supports only notebooks. Oh, and Movielink doesn’t support Firefox either, unless you install the Firefox add-on IE Tab. Now that’s just lazy.

Movielink’s catalog is comparable to that of CinemaNow, Unbox, and Vudu. Movie rentals and TV episode prices are the same as the competition’s ($2 and $4, respectively), but like the rest of the field, its movie purchase prices were $5 higher than Unbox across the board. The search engine in the Movielink Manager client enables you to locate films by category (including Coming Soon, Last Chance, and Award Winners, as well as by genre, director, actor, or keyword). Searches can be limited to rentals only, purchase only, or both. Movielink does have a cult cinema category, but Office Space was the only movie available from our list. It did have some other good catches, however, including Roger Corman’s Bucket of Blood , David Cronenberg’s Videodrome , and the blaxploitation classic Foxy Brown .

You can play downloaded content on up to three PCs, make backup copies on DVD (in their original format, which won’t play on a standard DVD player), and stream from a PC to your TV using a Media Center Extender (using either Vista or Windows XP). All of Movielink’s videos are in WMV format and in standard definition, so they suffer from many of the same scaling problems as the rest of the SD field.

Movie rentals: $3 to $4
Movie purchases: $8 to $20
TV episodes: $2

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