I signed up for ScreenSelect.co.uk on Tuesday evening. I added sixty-odd films to my queue that first evening. On Wednesday, their web site showed that the first three had been posted, and on Thursday morning they all arrived. That’s quick!
The ScreenSelect web site is, at first glance, pretty good. It’s light-weight, and fast-loading, and the process of adding DVDs to your queue is one-click simple. What it lacks, though, is a better way of finding interesting DVDs to watch.
The main way to find a film is by its name, of course. Alternatively, you can look up an actor or director and see a list of all their work that is available. But one of the joys of a service like ScreenSelect is the process of snuffling around to find hidden gems, films of which you say, “I’ve always wanted to watch that!” and adding them to your ever-growing queue. You can browse by genre/category, but the sorting and filtering options are poor, and so far I always find myself with a selection that is too small or too big.
Alternatively, you can browse their “featured collections”, such as their “Top Picks”, “Recent Releases”, or “100 Top Thrillers”. The problem with these collections is their quality, or lack of it. “100 Top Thrillers”, for example, contains such gems as Nightstalker and Jaws 2 on the first page of results. Ummm. Could they really not find two better thrillers to pad out their top 100? In their desire to have the UK’s largest collection of DVDs to rent by post, they seem to have forgotten that the vast majority of films on release are actually rubbish.
It would be nice if the service could help me get past that junk, and help me select films I might like, but wouldn’t know to find on my own. Fortunately they do seem to have some kind of ratings and recommendations engine, but with only two films watched and rated so far, it’s too early to tell if this works.
The service allows you to submit little (up to 500 words) reviews of films you’ve seen, but their copyright terms are brutal: “Please note that all submitted reviews become the property of ScreenSelect Ltd., which reserves the right to edit or delete any submissions.” I’m happy to submit my ratings, but I can’t see myself contributing to their reviews database.
It would also be nice if reviews were indexed and hyperlinked by reviewer. That way, if you that someone liked a film, you could look up and see what else they liked. Likewise, it would be cool if you could link to other people’s film queues, or expose your own to the public. No go on on both of these ideas (yet), though.
(However, there are Movable Type plugins for screen-scraping and exposing a Netflix movie queue, so it shouldn’t be hard to knock together a similar thing for ScreenSelect. Except that I’ve given up Perl. Nngggnng….)
Overall, though, these are just niggles. It has been very easy to put together a queue of over 100 films in just a few days, and that ought to see me through well into 2005. Their delivery service seems to be fast and efficient, and £14.99 a month is an excellent price–especially when you consider that you don’t pay any postage charges. So would I recommend ScreenSelect? Based on these first impressions, definitely yes.