Saturday, 10 March 2012

Universal Pictures VS LOVEFiLM: A Call to Arms

************ *********** PLEASE SEE MY UPDATE HERE ************** **********

Film fans, Lovefilm subscribers, the 'good' people at Universal Pictures.... what the flying f*ck is going on here?  I'm seriously pissed off and I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to explode but here it is: 

Since 2009 there has been a dispute between Lovefilm and Universal Pictures.  Lovefilm can't rent out any post-2009 Universal Pictures films.  This means just this month I cannot put Safe House, Wanderlust, Contraband or The Greatest Movie Ever Sold on my rental list.  I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!

Here's a list from Wikipedia of just some of the biggest and best releases that all us Lovefilm subscribers are unable to watch unless we fork out more for cinema tickets or buy the films on DVD or Blu-ray:


Fast & Furious
The Soloist
Land of the Lost
Public Enemies
Funny People
Inglourious Basterds
The Invention of Lying
Couples Retreat


The Wolfman
Green Zone
Repo Men
Robin Hood
Get Him to the Greek
Despicable Me
Charlie St. Cloud
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


The Dilemma
The Adjustment Bureau
Fast Five
The Change-Up
Dream House
The Thing
Johnny English Reborn
Tower Heist

And here's five more to be concerned about in 2012!

American Reunion
Snow White & the Huntsman
The Bourne Legacy  

Am I wrong or is that pretty serious?  It's f*cking ridiculous is what it is.  I don't want to move to Netflix or Blockbuster as I really like Lovefilm.  If you want to read a great write up of the similarities and differences between Lovefilm and Netflix, head to this article on Front Room Cinema.  If you want to see why Lovefilm are rated the number one online rental service in the UK, head here.

I still think Lovefilm have a brilliant service and apart from this dispute I have no complaints about them.  They have arranged some amazing free screenings and Q&A's with the likes of Joe Cornish, Paddy Considine, Anna Faris, Danny Boyle and many others.  I think they are excellent value for money and the website is easy to use and filled with great news, features and competitions.   But this dispute pisses me off.

I phoned up Lovefilm to put my investigative journalism skills to the test and the guy from customer services said he couldn't tell me when the dispute would end.  He did say that it was either to do with licensing deals and Universal having an exclusive deal with another rental company OR it might be to do with the prohibitive cost of rental copies from Universal.  But he said he didn't know.  I should have pushed him and demanded he put me on the phone with someone who could tell me otherwise I'd cancel then and there but really I'm a pussy cat and I guess my hard-ass journalistic technique isn't quite there yet.

Anyway I'm sure this is more Universal's fault than Lovefilm's.  Every other film company lets their films be rented out by Lovefilm, so why not Universal?  I remember when I worked at Blockbuster and there was a dispute with Warner Bros that lead to Blockbuster not stocking several of their releases including Training Day.  It got resolved in the end.  Don't know how.  Don't care how.  But it did.

So now I have sent an email to Universal Pictures and this is where you all come in!  Are any of you fine readers and my new 'brothers and sisters in arms' with Lovefilm?  If so, have you noticed this stupid, ridiculous dispute?  Of course you have, and though I'm sure most of us can afford the odd cinema visit or purchase of a DVD or Blu-ray, that's not the frigging point.  The point is that we're being screwed!  We should have access to Universal's films on Lovefilm and something needs to be done!

Here is the email I sent Universal:
Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to know why Universal Pictures films are not available through the Lovefilm online rental service.

Do you make your films prohibitively expensive compared to all the other studios whose films are available on Lovefilm?


Are you binded by contracts with other rental services that rent Universal films?

OR is it neither of the above and if so what is the problem?

I pretty much watch all films through my Lovefilm subscription (approximately 20-25 per month) and have missed out on a huge number of your titles due to this.  I have still yet to see Robin Hood, Get Him to the Greek, Inglorious Basterds and countless others due to this problem.  I pay enough for my subscription to Lovefilm and therefore will not fork out more to go see your films at the cinema or buy them on DVD/Blu-ray.  I've noticed recently that I will also miss Contraband, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold and Safe House.

In an age where piracy is so very easy and tempting for many a film fan, is it not desirable for you to convince us to pay for your films somehow.  I don't want to illegally download films and I haven't done so but why should I pay extra for your films when I pay £13.27 a month to Lovefilm?

I would greatly appreciate a response and an end to this dispute.

Kind regards

(your name here!)
Now it's your turn!  Copy and paste this email, change whatever you want to make it your own personal email and send it to  Let's bombard them and get a response!  I'm not going to let this drop.  Let's put some people power in action!  Let me know if you're with me on this.  Even if you're not with Lovefilm.  Join us!

************ *********** PLEASE SEE MY UPDATE HERE ************** **********


  1. I am a Lovefilm and Netflix subscriber. But I must admit I would not have Lovefilm these days if I hadn't struck and advertising deal months back to get the service for free. Once that contract is over I am going to cancel and go to Blockbuster online rental service. The reason?

    They get good exclusives for early rental. My friend had TTSS and Drive weeks before I even got my press copies!!

    Thanks for the linkage matey!! very kind indeed

    get Netflix it is the way forward.... And if you do email me and I will let you into a little secret.

    1. That's interesting! Might have a look at what Blockbuster has to offer. Will definitely take you up on that when I have a go at Netflix.

  2. We don't have LoveFilm over in the US (at least not that I'm aware of - somebody educate me if that is not the case!), so this is the first time I've even heard of the site.

    I am a Netflix subscriber, however, and really enjoy it. I use only the streaming (used to have DVDs too until the price doubled to have both services), but I think it's great. I get to watch so many TV shows (and there's some movies on there) as well as documentaries.

    To me, it sounds (and appears) that Love Film gets more current films earlier, so I can imagine why you're upset not gaining access to a lot of popular ones just because Universal is giving problems. Way to stand up for what you want! Hope that it gets resolved and you get a reply to your email.

    1. Thanks Kristin, well I try my best but Universal and Lovefilm just continue to ignore me unfortunately. Might have to vote with my wallet and give Netflix or Blockbuster a try!

  3. I had no idea that Universal Home Video don't have a distribution pact with LoveFilm. Seems silly considering how LoveFilm has become the go to rental service in Britain.

    I saw Safe House in the cinema last week. To be honest, you're not missing much if they don't post it to you.

    1. Yeah it pisses me off every damn time I go to put a Universal film on my rental list! Shame to hear you didn't think much of Safe House. Kinda looking forward to it!

  4. Why can't the studios and the rental companies just get along??!! Really, we cinephiles are the ones suffering here. I know Netflix has some dispute with a studio too, right, can't remember which one. Not to mention the long wait for new releases, that's why now I don't subscribe to any. If I want to see something I just go to Amazon on Demand.

    1. Oh didn't know that. I'll have to look into that before I do anything rash like jumping ship to Netflix! Might have a look at Amazon on demand, thanks Ruth!

    2. I think my hubby only has a year subscription so far (it's like $70 a year or something like that). Not sure how it compares to Netflix and LoveFilm but so far it's working for us until we find another alternative.

    3. Cool I'll defintely check it out!

  5. Studio companies are obsessed with money. Bit of a joke really. If studios were not so greedy then people would not feel the urge to download illegally.

    Having just signed up to Blockbuster (which has an advantage oover Lovefilm because it gets lots of its film a week or two before) I have began to use Lovefilm's online service less and less as there is a better and wider range of new films on itunes.

    1. Exactly! Yeah I'm actually tempted by BB now. Heard a lot of good stuff! I'm going to start a Netflix month free trial and then have a good hard think about the way forward!

  6. I've just defected to Blockbuster because of the 'Universal Issue' - found a voucher for a month's trial for a quid. Their service is still not as good as Lovefilm's I'm afraid - the one time I used their 'top ticket' service (a service which guarantees you a title from your list no matter what) they throttled back despatch of my regular titles, so in effect, I'm getting nothing extra, just the guarantee of the title I want. It should be noted that new titles such as 'The Thing' and 'Contagion' aren't initially available as top titles..! In short, I've taken a holiday from Lovefilm but will return after 3 months and in turn, will knock Blockbuster on the head; by then I should have a could bulk of the Universal titles wanted.

    1. Interesting thanks for sharing! I am on a month free trial with Netflix and not liking it that much so far. I'm definitely going to stick with Lovefilm at the moment but might have to see what Blockbusters are like if I can get a month free trial. Thanks again for commenting... always useful to get another point of view!

  7. If Lovefilm don't, can't or won't carry new films from Universal, then they shouldnt be advertising with the strapline "We have everthing". Neither should they have any of the unavailable Universal films listed in their catalogue; it seems pointless to have a catalogue page with all the relevant details of the film but headed up "We don't have rental rights to this title".

    If Lovefilm don't, can't or won't carry these titles, then they should be up front with their customers about it and tell them why - I only found out about this issue on the wider web while looking for something else. I was intrigued by the references to "throttling" - this would explain why it took so long for many of my discs to arrive (I get through about three rentals per week).

    Lovefilm refused to respond to my enquiries about the non-stocking of particular titles. When I asked them to close my account immediately prior to my next payment (some three weeks in the future) they refused and said that "our systems dont work like that" - I would have to wait until the day before payment was due and telephone them to cancel. So I told them to cancel immediately - they of course could manage this.

    The only way these people will be made to understand how angry their customers are is if their customers vote with their wallets and take their business elsewhere. Blockbusters here I come!

    1. I agree, I should vote with my wallet but there is too much that I like about Lovefilm to keep me from quitting. I just wish they would be more open with their customers and I wish I felt like they really were trying everything to end this dispute! Good luck with Blockbuster, I hope you find the service to a good standard!

  8. Given that LoveFilm and the other studios can play nicely, the fuss over movie piracy is a little undermined by a major studio being unable to settle on a deal with the UK's main (I'm assuming) movie rental service.

    I don't pirate movies, but I don't think I'd have a hard time making peace with a decision to pirate Universal movies. As it is I just don't see the Universal ones. I was very annoyed about this at first, but soon found I could live without them.

    1. Exactly Stephen! Well put. I'm still annoyed though. There are a lot of titles I'm not bothered about but there is a few that I really want to see!

  9. I used to be vocally and vehemently against online pirating of films and still am - but, if it's a Universal film I'm unable to get via LoveFilm, then I've started making an exception.

    I don't feel great about doing it - but both parties have spectacularly failed to resolve the issue in over FOUR years so sod 'em...

    1. ps. just sent the email below to Universal - although not holding my breath for a response...

      Dear Sir/Madam

      I would like to know why Universal Pictures films & TV shows are not available through the LoveFilm online rental service.

      It is difficult for me to get to the cinema so I watch the vast majority of films through my LoveFilm subscription and have missed out on a huge number of your titles due to this.

      I pay for my subscription to LoveFilm and cannot afford to buy each film or TV series individually on DVD or Blu-ray.

      In an age where piracy is so very easy and tempting, surely it is preferable for you to work constructively with distribution partners such as LoveFilm to get your product into the marketplace and provide a sustainable revenue stream...

      I would greatly appreciate a response and an end to this dispute.

    2. No I wouldn't expect a response but we have to try! Thank you for the feedback and for getting involved, it has gone on far too long and something most certainly needs to be done!

  10. I just came across Repo Men (UP 2010) on LF that is avaliable to watch all be it via Instant. It does however state on the page that "We do not have rental rights for this product." Maybe things are slowly coming to light?

    1. Yeah I noticed this the other day. It's definitely an interesting development. Let's hope for further steps in this direction!

  11. It appears that all the films on the 2011 and back lists are now available. Hopefully, they have buried the hatchet with the livestream service agreement. The 2012 films are still down as none rentable though ...

    Try The Change Up for an example.

    1. Yeah it's getting there! About time too! I've got a lot of catching up to do! I've posted an update and linked to it in the above post now if you're interested.


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