The end of an era! Netflix says adieu to red envelope DVD rentals

The streaming giant looks back on its mail-only origins with a campaign by Felipe Lima and Ways & Means, full of loading menus, scratched discs and its signature red envelopes.

4 October 2023


A brilliant new film by Ways & Means and director Felipe Lima looks back at a largely forgotten part of Netflix’s history. Long before Tudum, Netflix was a mail-based DVD rental business.

The company launched under this model in 1997, competing against the likes of Blockbuster. In 1999, it stopped charging customers per rental and moved to a subscription model, which remains an integral part of the brand to this day. While Netflix went on to have titanic success in online streaming, what you might not realise is that the brand continued to run its DVD rental service for customers. But all that is coming to an end. On 29 September, Netflix shipped out its last ever DVD.

An important part of Netflix’s original branding was the red envelopes it used to ship its titles. “We’ve always loved entertainment and that little red envelope remains an enduring symbol of our mission to make it better for every member,” the brand shared recently. “DVDs will forever be in our DNA.”

Netflix launched a farewell campaign film to mark the moment. It pays homage to its rental service as well as all the nostalgic moments surrounding the DVD era. Shots of postboxes and DVD title menus are spliced together to a computerised cover of Blink 182’s All the Small Things. A Netflix DVD Sleeping Bag has also been released on Netflix’s online shop.

Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice was the first ever DVD to be rented from Netflix in 1998. Almost 25 years later, the last title to be shipped was True Grit by the Coens.

GalleryWays & Means / Felipe Lima: Netflix, Long Live the Red Envelope Era (Copyright © Netflix, 2023)

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Ways & Means / Felipe Lima: Netflix, Long Live the Red Envelope Era (Copyright © Netflix, 2023)

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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