Why are 25 year-old movies in the US iTunes store but not the Australian store?
My lounge room is full of gadgets which let you hire movies online, but my first port of call is always the Apple TV. I don't just favour Apple's little set-top box because it's simple to use and offers good picture quality. The main reason why I favour the Apple TV is because it's easy to hire movies from the US iTunes store without the need to mess around with a Virtual Private Network or US credit card. Jumping between the two stores, it's hard to see why anyone would tolerate the second-class Australian iTunes store when it's so easy to set yourself up with a US iTunes account.
New release movies come to the US iTunes store sooner, but there's more to it than that. When new movies are first released you can only buy them, then after a few weeks you can rent them. The Australian store makes you wait much longer before you can rent a recent release. Often you'll find old movies on the Australian store which are still purchase-only, but you can happily hire them from the US store.
Of course it's also cheaper to rent movies from the US store, especially when the Australian dollar is strong. You can't use an Australian credit card, but you can top up your account with US iTunes cards.
I've been burned when buying US iTunes cards online so these days I prefer to get friends to buy them for me when they travel. I foolishly forgot to stock up when I was in New York last year and now I'm finally out of credit. On Saturday night I realised my US iTunes account was down to its last few bucks, having already promised the kids we'd hire a movie. We've been working our way through the 80s classics and were set to watch Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but when I switched to the Australian iTunes store it just wasn't there. This movie is almost 25 years old, yet for some reason Australians can't watch it on the Apple TV.
After much cursing, I dusted off my Blockbuster membership card and actually drove to the video store for the first time in several years. Quite a few of the video stores near me have shut up shop, but somehow this one is still kicking. In the end I got all three Honey, I Shrunk the X movies for $4.50 for five nights, a good reminder that you'll often get a better deal on old movies from the video store if you're prepared to leave the house.
You might think this is an anomaly, so I went in search of other 80s classics. It didn't take me long to discover that The Flight of the Navigator is also missing from the Australian store. This was only after five minutes of searching, I'm sure there are many more (I later realised that one of my favourite films ever, The Usual Suspects, is also missing). Whether or not you like these movies is irrelevant. Surely they should be in the Australian iTunes store if they're in the US store.
It's not fair to just point the blame at Apple, as it's also up to the movie houses to play ball. These movies are missing because Apple hasn't struck a rights deal to offer them locally. But the fact they can't strike Australian deals on 25 year-old movies, when they can strike a US deal, tells you how little they all care about Australia. It notice that Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is on Bigpond Movies, although Telstra's is also a far from complete library. What's really laughable is that a quick Google search turns up a few sites where you can watch Honey, I Shrunk the Kids for free, not to mention the file-sharing options.
I don't think I'm asking for too much when I expect to have access to the same back catalogue as US movie lovers, especially when I'm prepared to pay for it. Australia's online movie rental services need to try harder if they want our money. Have you been left in the lurch by movies overlooked in Australia?