Smart Consumer: Enjoy blockbusters at home without spending big bucks
Did you see the Golden Globes recently? Did it make you run straight to the cinema to watch Meryl Streep in her award-winning role in The Iron Lady, or catch Michael Fassbender naked in nominee Shame?
The only fly in the ointment is that going to the cinema is very dear. Tickets typically cost around €9 and even as much as €10.20 (at Cineworld on Dublin's Parnell Street).
So what about renting or downloading films? The pitfall here is that you won't be able to rent current releases, although if you're after Golden Globe nominees Bridesmaids or The Guard, they were out long enough ago to be available to rent now.
But what if you don't live near a rental store, or couldn't be bothered to leave your home?
One option is ordering online. Providers offer different-priced monthly packages, send you the discs, which you then return in the pre-paid envelope that is provided.
Or if your broadband access is decent enough you can rent and download online, through the likes of Netflix and iTunes Movies. If you're a Sky Movies customer you now have the choice of using Sky Go for free, which allows you to view TV and films on your laptop or iPhone/Pad.
Whichever option you choose, always read the small print.
You don't have to be an Xtra-Vision member to use their site. Prices start at €11.99 per month for an unlimited amount of DVDs, one at a time, and go up to €19.99 per month for an unlimited amount, receiving three at one time.
Try it with the two-week free trial, but cancel before that two weeks is up, or you become a subscriber. You can cancel your subscription any time before the next monthly renewal but won't be refunded an amount for a partial month.
At Screenclick you can rent movies and games. Movie packages start at €7.99 for two DVDs a month but their most popular is the €17.99 package, which gives you unlimited DVDs and you're allowed two at one time. You can also buy Pay as You Go buying credits at €3 a pop.
Each disc costs one credit and you have to watch the movie and send back within 10 days or you'll be debited one credit for each 10-day period until you return it. The cheapest package to rent both films and games is €9.99 a month.
If you want to cancel your subscription you have to do it at least two days before renewal.
Screenclick is also available from An Post at www.anpost/ movies, for films only.
Netflix is brand new to Ireland and allows you to stream films and TV programmes. Neither films nor TV programmes are brand new, but the price is good at €6.99 per month to watch as much as you want and you can watch on your TV screen if you can connect to your TV via your laptop or games console.
If you want to give it a go there is a free month's trial period but you will be automatically subscribed after that, so remember to cancel if you don't want to continue.
If you do subscribe and want to leave you can do that at any time, but the smart way is to leave just before your next monthly payment is due, as part monthly payments are not refunded if you leave mid-month.
Available in Ireland since last April, you can rent or buy movies via your iTunes account and then watch on your Mac, iPhone/Pad/Pod or Apple TV -- so you have to be part of the Apple 'family' for this one.
The good thing is that this isn't a subscription service, so no need to worry about how to cancel. If you rent a movie to watch you have 30 days to do so and new releases, such as The Hangover Part II or Puss in Boots, cost €3.99 to rent. Others, that are a little older cost €2.99, although you'll find some for 99c.