Checked out Blockbuster Online's website. It looked incredibly varied, far more than either Netflix or Greencine or even the Chicago-based Facets (whose really interesting films are on VHS, not DVD). Sent them this message:
"Inquiring about your catalogue. If, say, a search shows 38 films by Yasujiro Ozu, does this mean you have all 38 films of Ozu? If a search shows Killer of Sheep by Charles Burnett, does this mean you have it, even if it has not been released on DVD yet? I don't think the way you present your catalogue is very clear."
They promised me a reply within 2 days, and as promised I got this:
> Dear Noel,
> We currently show an actor's entire filmography when
> browsing by name. These actors may have an extensive
> list of movies. Unfortunately they may only be a
> limited number of their titles in our library. For
> purposes of research, we feel it's important to not
> just show the DVDs that are available, but the
> entire breadth of an actor's career. In addition,
> many titles have not been released to DVD and are
> only available on VHS.
> If you would like to recommend a movies(s) for our
> online library, please reply with the titles(s). We
> can submit a request to our Online Buyers. If the
> movie title you requested is available on DVD and
> meets Blockbuster's approved MPAA ratings, it will
> be added to our library. If you have additional
> requests, please feel free to contact us.
> Your Friends at Blockbuster Online
To which I replied:
"If I may note, the filmographies are hardly complete;
you list only 38 of Ozu's titles, for example, when he
has over forty. I don'tsee much here that
imdb.com can't already provide.
Plus, there's the overall effect that you seem to be
providing titles you don't actually have. Nothing explicitly says here that not all these titles are available. Don't you think you should make it clearer which titles you actually carry and which you do not?"
Another 48 hours, and they said:
> We make it clear what we carry by providing an add
> to queue button by titles we carry to rent online.
> We apologize if this caused any confusion for you.
> If you know of titles you would like us to carry
> please place a request for that title and we will
> submit it to our buyers for approval.
> Your Friends at Blockbuster Online
"I don't know. When I make a search of director's
films on your site, I see a long list. Only when I click on
the "see all editions" link do I see an "add to my
queue" button (if the film is available). Seems to me
I need to do a lot of things before I can confirm
if Blockbuster carries the titles or not--and it still
doesn't clearly say whether or not the title is
available. A man can easily get excited and sign up
for your service before he realizes not everything
listed can be rented. Maybe the fastest way to confirm
that this is the case is to do what I did--write to
you to ask.
As for suggestions--everything available by Charles
Burnett, John Cassavettes, King Hu, Chang Cheh, Hou
Hsiao Hsien, Edward Yang, Ritwik Ghatak, Bimal Roy,
Jean Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Roberto Rosellini.
That's off the top of my head, I'm sure there's plenty
more you need to acquire before you can rival or
exceed Netflix's catalogue."
No response to that one until now.
UPDATE (9/17/06): I was going to say, well, it looks like they removed those 'filmographies entire' from their website, with the added snide comment that their Bollywood selection is pretty damned poor. Then I noticed, calling up Charles Burnett, that they included Killer of Sheep, which isn't available on DVD. Nope, they're still putting titles they don't have on their website; it's just the filmographies that have dumbed down.