Best Movie Gifts and How To Give Them In 2016
If you're searching for a movie to buy for someone on your list, you may have the same problem I experience. You think back over the past year and have a hard time recalling many of the titles that paraded through your local theater. Added to this temporary loss of memory is the complexity of the tastes of the person you are buying for. Put simply, some people are very difficult to predict their response to a particular film. (I'm convinced I will never figure out my in-laws' movie tastes!)
Buying movies for kids is a little easier, but there's always the chance that the latest Disney film has been purchased by another friend, aunt or parents. After Finding Dory under the tree five times even the most patient child will want a little diversity.
That's not to say Dory isn't a good gift choice. It's one of my favorites of the year. But if you are concerned about your gift looking no different than the other fish in the sea it may be wise to dig a little deeper for a title that isn’t on the tip of everyone's tongue. For example, the remake of Pete's Dragon (a much-improved version from the original) or The Jungle Book (a spectacular live-action animated hybrid) both have a little less marketing buzz. Even better, The Queen of Katwe is a magnificent film that tells a true story that will inspire many children. Sadly, it won't be on home video in time for Christmas 2016, but you can pre-order from many sources (Amazon, iTunes, etc.) and send a card-coupon telling your lucky recipient it will be on its way in January. (There's the added bonus that it will be even more appreciated after the holiday rush is over.)
Adult titles are a little trickier. Your Aunt Debbie may not appreciate the edge-of-your-seat thrills in the well-constructed 10 Cloverfield Lane but your nephew might. Having to make these tough decisions are why the gift card industry has grown into a multi-billion-dollar business. Just beware of the naysayers who feel gift cards are an easy out for someone who doesn't care enough to search for a specific gift. So here's an alternative approach…
If you decide to purchase a gift card for the movie-lover on your list, take the time to add a few thoughtful suggestions. For example, you can lovingly recommend to your scary movie consuming nephew that you really liked 10 Cloverfield Lane, or The Others and even a classic like Hitchcock's Rear Window. That way he knows you put some thought into the gift and will still think fondly of you after cashing in your reward toward Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Hey… at least you tried.
If you think selecting the movie is tough wait until you get to the technical decisions. Zootopia is a great choice for families and is the type of title that will play well in a home theater or the back seat of a minivan. That means you might want to consider gifting it in digital form so its easily transportable, but before you do you'd best do some detective work and discover what "entertainment ecosystem" your recipient uses. Is she an Apple enthusiast or an Android aficionado? If the former, iTunes is the best place to purchase the film. Otherwise you may want to use the Google Play store and buy a gift card (iTunes is the only digital platform that allows you to gift a specific movie) and write the aforementioned message to give it a personal touch.
These decisions are important because there are restrictions about which devices will play movies bought from a certain source. Not surprisingly movies bought on Apple's iTunes store mostly play only on Apple devices. (The one notable exception is Windows computers.) Movies bought on the Google Play store are a little more flexible. They'll pay on Android and Apple iOS devices (iPhones and iPads), Mac and PC computers and some "smart TVs" along with Roku boxes. But they will not play directly on Apple TVs and other devices. However, after you purchase a Google Play movie it will be available on the user's YouTube account, and many more devices can play YouTube content. Other sources for movie purchases include Amazon (movies mainly work on the company's Kindle devices and Roku boxes), CinemaNow and Vudu (these two also offer a range of supported devices, especially smart TVs and Blu-ray players).
At this point you may be thinking a good 'ol DVD or Blu-ray disc is easier. Well, it very well may be. If you're purchasing for someone who isn't particularly technical, this may still be the best ticket to the movies. Grandma and Grandpa may appreciate the new Ben-Hur remake on a shiny disc they can put on the shelf and easily use with their player. And your mother may feel the same way about one of this year's best comedies, Florence Foster Jenkins. That's not to suggest discs are only for the older generations. If you have a friend who insists on only the best images and sounds to view on her 120-inch home theater screen, a Blu-ray or UHD (the newest format -- "Ultra High Definition") copy of Star Trek Beyond or Eye In The Sky may leave them far more excited than a digital download. At this time, no online source offers the picture quality achieved on Blu-rays or UHD. (For those who beg to differ, remember there's more to a good picture than resolution. Blu-rays and UHD discs still use far lower compression than streaming or digital download formats.) Finally, if you recipient has a slower Internet connection a ready-out-of-the-box choice may be appreciated.
One final note: Nearly all digital purchases must be redeemed in the same country where they were bought. Sadly, that means the evil demons of copyright restrictions will prevent your gift of the new Ghostbusters from materializing on the other side of the pond. The workaround? Go to a reputable online retailer that operates in the country where you want to purchase the gift, order a gift card for the store where you want your recipient to purchase the movie and have it mailed or emailed to them. Or, if you are looking to send a movie from the Apple iTunes store, you can visit Apple's portals in other countries and order a gift card. For example, here is the Apple Gift Card page in the UK: http://www.apple.com/uk/itunes/gifts/ (If you have an iTunes or Apple account, make sure you sign out prior to ordering the gift card. When you order the card on the foreign Apple site, do so as a guest otherwise your order will not process.)
Your other option is to purchase physical movies on a foreign store like Amazon and sign into their store in the country where you want to give the gift. So, if your recipient is in the UK and you want to send them Ghostbusters, go to the Amazon UK store (https://www.amazon.co.uk) and make the purchase using your usual Amazon login. Amazon will deliver the movie directly to your happy friend and they can enjoy the movie in the format that will play in their region.
No matter what method you use, if you quit reading this and get busy there's still time to have the perfect cinematic creation under a tree in many parts of the world.