Cinemail is based in Winnipeg and boasts a large inventory of 25,000+ films. Though a smaller company than market leader Zip, they have a very strong and loyal following among film buffs, who especially appreciate their large Criterion selection, critical editions of classic films--most importantly as all those extra discs are considered a single rental. They also have a good selection of hard-to-find titles, listed in an unprecedented 72 genres. These range from Academy Award to Western, covering many foreign countries, and breakdowns such as TV - British, TV - Sci-Fi, etc.
Surprisingly, they do not stock and High Definition discs, either Blu-ray or HD-DVD.
Cinemail is up front in their FAQ announcing they are unable to send New Releases until 2-8 weeks after their release on DVD, and even then demand will likely be strong. While this difficulty in getting new releases is true to some extent across the industry, Cinemail is more a choice for those looking to peruse the large back catalogue, watch classics and niche films, etc., than those interested in the latest blockbusters.
We like their Vacation Mode, which allows you to temporarily suspend your account while traveling or if you simply want a break from DVD rentals. The staff at the original video shop which launched Cinemail, Winnipeg's Movie Village--a video store with 20 years' experience--is apparently very friendly, with glowing reports of their customer service. In fact, their customers appear quite loyal. In an interview, Cinemail online head George Galaugher noted they weren't aiming to be the biggest service, and instead were focused on customer satisfaction and slower growth. One example; if you report a disc is scratched, we understand they'll email their apologies and send you off a replacement without waiting for the disc to arrive.
The website itself is a bit spartan by comparison to Zip, and really should be updated. One of the few other things we can find to criticize is their occasional slower delivery times; not to a large degree, but again not quite as fast as Zip. The best way around this is to use their Quick Return facility. This is designed to speed turnaround for customers outside Manitoba. The day you post your discs, you can select Quick Return from the website, and they will mail your next discs the following day--without waiting for the last set of discs to arrive in the mail. Although an extra step to the process, this process makes Cinemail viable nationwide. Likewise, we like their availability indicator, so you know if a DVD is in or there will be a short wait, etc.
Unlike Zip's limited plan, if you miss a disc or two in a month, you carry over the credit to the next month--a very equitable system that means you're not in a rush to get through movies to avoid losing the credit. We also like that their service is simple to cancel with an easily located button, unlike on many services.
Prices: Cinemail offer a 14-day free trial. Despite Zip's move to capped rentals, Cinemail still have a wide range of cheap unlimited packages which should be excellent value; 2 discs unlimited for $18.95, 3 discs unlimited for $23.98, 4 for $27.98, and 6 for $29.98. For low-volume renters, we especially like their 2-disc out plan capped at 4 discs per month for $16.95, because if for some reason you don't watch 4 discs in a month, they carry over into the next month. They also have 1 disc out/2 total plan for $7.98, 3 out, and 6 total for $19.98.