As streaming has taken over the world of movies and TV, most people are relying on a subscription service (or two, or more) to get endless binge-worthy content. But what happens when a movie you want to see isn’t on Netflix or you don’t want to subscribe to Disney+ just for that nostalgia trip? That’s where on-demand services like Amazon, iTunes, Voodoo, Google and others come in, allowing you to buy or rent an individual movie for a few bucks. but unlike subscription services, they often have many of the same movies, so where is the best place to buy?
Before we start talking about the different storefronts, let’s get one thing straight: If you’re buying digital movies and you’re not registered to watch movies anywhere, you should be.
You’ve probably heard of the service before, but in case you’re not familiar, Movies Anywhere lets you “sync” many of your digital movies across different services. So if you buy a movie on iTunes, you’ll also be able to watch that movie on Amazon, Google Play, Voodoo, and other participating services. You can also buy and watch movies in the Movies Anywhere app itself, and use it to redeem codes for digital movies that come with the physical discs you buy.
This makes where you shop less important, since you can watch many of those movies anywhere; then it becomes more about which service you use to watch those movies, as that can affect the quality of the stream and the platforms you can watch on. though getting deals and freebies from certain services can still be a great way to get cheap movies and sync them to your streaming app of choice.
I just know there are some caveats. Movies Anywhere doesn’t have a deal with every studio under the sun, and there are some movies you won’t be able to sync with other services, so you’ll want to buy them on the platform of your choice, rather than get them with deals at a secondary store. Also, it doesn’t work for TV shows or movie rentals, so in those cases, you’ll need to watch your content on the service it came from. but as long as you shop with those caveats in mind, it’s a great place to manage your movie collection.
If you’ve got a fancy new 4k TV or soundbar and want your movies to look and sound their best, then you’ll need to consider the bitrate of your video and audio streams. Bitrate, as the name suggests, describes the amount of data flowing to your devices at any given time. the more data the streaming service sends, the higher the quality of your video and audio, everything else staying the same. Just because two services have “4k” doesn’t mean they’ll look the same, it just determines the number of pixels per frame. the more data allocated to those frames, the less likely it is to experience smearing, crashing, or other artifacts. there are other factors, such as different compression algorithms used, but bitrate is a decent indicator right off the bat.
Apple’s iTunes Store has earned a reputation for having the best video and audio quality, which makes sense given that it offers a 25Mbps bitrate for its 4K streams. It also offers Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos on many compatible titles, ensuring it will look and sound great no matter what gear you have. in my experience itunes will even upgrade you to 4k for all available movies even if you redeemed a standard hd code on movies anywhere. Even if you don’t use Apple devices, you’ll likely get the best streaming quality from movies rented and purchased through iTunes (or streamed to iTunes through Movies Anywhere).
speaking of which, movies anywhere allows you to stream movies directly from their website and app, and offer comparable bitrates to itunes, although I found that not all of my movies necessarily offered dolby vision and dolby atmos a through movies anywhere, even when they did it through itunes. however, it is a good secondary option.
amazon prime, google play, and other services tend to have lower quality, though they’ll still look decent enough in a pinch, or if you’re renting a movie that doesn’t require the highest picture quality.
Of course, the quality of the video and audio means nothing if a certain application is not available on the platform of your choice. Fortunately, this isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be, especially since Apple started offering its app on non-Apple platforms. You’ll find the Apple TV app on Amazon Fire devices, Google TV, Roku boxes, PlayStation and Xbox consoles, and many smart TVs from major manufacturers. you can see the full list of supported devices here.
The same goes for Movies Anywhere, which are available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire Devices, Roku Box, Google TV, and many Smart TVs. Movies Anywhere, however, does not appear to be available on Xbox or Playstation game consoles; check your list of supported devices.