CafeDVD is certainly a whimsical and easy to use site, but their appear to trail most of the online DVD rental companies in, features, high prices, etc. The obscure, critically acclaimed films adorning their homepage show their cinephile outlook.
Founded in 1999 by a group of independent film directors and marketing executives, CafeDVD is a personalized online DVD rental service with a wealth of independent, arthouse, foreign, classic and hard-to-find titles on DVD. Every title they carry has been hand picked by their staff, which often times requires a rigorous research of film archives, professional consultation by a group of critics as well as valuable recommendations from their customers. They tend to bypass mainstream releases of questionable quality to find the best films both from new DVD releases and from old favorites new to DVD.
They don't have an extensive search function, though you can search a single field for title, director, cast, or synopsis. They do boast 14 genres for browsing, as well as many top lists--1001 must see movies, most requested directors, popular independent, criterion collections, etc. Their actual title information is alright, but we would expected a bit more from a cinephile site, listing rating, stars, director, genre, studio, subtitles, and length. Some of their entries link to trailers or even movie critic reviews, which is excellent. They also list title availability: Available Now, Short Wait, Long Wait, or Coming--very useful.
CafeDVD also sells DVDs, and even offer to buy new and used DVDs. CafeDVD is located in San Francisco, so delivery times will be best to the West Coast. They send their discs in simple tyvek mailers with a foam pouch for better protection.
A major plus is they offer a Quick return function; as soon as you drop your discs in the mail, click on their site to let them know and CafeDVD will dispatch another set of discs immediately, without waiting for your discs to arrive. Orders received by 4:00PM (Pacific Standard Time) are shipped out the same day. Orders received after 4:00PM, on weekends or holidays are shipped on the next business day. cafeDVD will automatically send you an e-mail confirming your shipment as soon as your order is en route. All orders are shipped by U.S. First-Class mail and should arrive in 2-4 days.
Prices: CafeDVD does not offer a free trial or unlimited rentals. All three of their monthly programs are fixed disc per month subscriptions, which is poor value in our opinion compared to the unlimited plans, but for some who want only a few films, this may be a viable option.
You can rent their small plan for 6 discs in the month at $14.95 (works out to $2.49), their medium for 8 discs in the month for $19.95 (also $2.49 per rent), or their large for 10 discs in the month at $23.95 ($2.40 per rent). Surprisingly, there is little economy of scale savings as you increase rentals. For comparison, with Netflix, even watching a modest 3 discs a week on their 3 disc out plan for $16.99, you'd average a mere $1.34 per disc, nearly half the price of CafeDVDs average per disc price.
CafeDVD also offers an a la carte rental option for $3.00 per title plus shipping--to keep at home for eight days. And also a Saver Pack of 10 DVD credits for $37.00. However, these are very poor value compared even to their capped monthly plans, and we don't recommend them.
All DVDs must be returned within 7 days of cancellation.