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All-you-can-eat entertainment, all for the cost of an Internet connection

Column: Forget the movie theater. Forget cable. Your computer has all the movies and shows you need.

By Tom ReganStaff Writer for The Christian Science Monitor / April 22, 2009

Rick Nease/Detroit Free Press/NEWSCOM

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If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for every way you can to trim a few dollars here and there. Buying in bulk. Finding the cheapest gas in town. Combining trips to make errands more efficient.

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In my family, one of the expenditures that was the hardest to cut back on was entertainment. We enjoyed going out to movies or buying the newest DVD for the kids. But we’ve even cut back on these amenities.

Now that I’ve pulled it off, here are ways to get back some of that entertainment value – all for the cost of an Internet connection. There can be small additional costs, yes. But you can determine which of those costs you can afford, while still giving your family a few treats.

Let’s start with the obvious: YouTube. I’m not talking about the videos put up by college students or overzealous political types – although they do have their moments. No, I mean the good stuff. For instance, I discovered the other day that James Burke’s amazing series “Connections” is available on YouTube. I’m a huge Monty Python fan – most of their better skits are free online. There is also the YouTube Screening Room, where new films are featured every two weeks. (This week it’s the documentary about America’s obsession with food, “Super Size Me.”)

Thanks to YouTube’s agreements with video producers, we now have two new categories on the site: Movies and Shows. I found “Sherlock Hound,” an animation series done by Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese genius behind “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.” If you’re in the mood for a flashback, there are even old episodes of “MacGyver” and “Charlie’s Angels.” And YouTube has every music video you’ve ever wanted to see. (Love that Weird Al!)

If you’re looking for something more up-to-date, try Hulu. NBC Universal and News Corp. created the sleek site in response to YouTube. There are scads of movies, documentaries, TV shows, and trailers from upcoming films. You can catch last week’s episode of “30 Rock” or Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.” (To be fair, you can also find Mr. Stewart on Comedy Central’s website, along with lots of other funny stuff.)

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