Collecting Physical Movies

I recently read an article on people who are still buying DVDs and it got me thinking of my own history of DVDs and I have a fair amount to say on the subject. First of all… I really hate how that article considers DVDs, Blu-Rays, and 4K all the same thing. If you are buying 4K movies, you are the same as people who buy DVDs.. and that’s a strange connection. Sure, they are all disc-based, but so was Laserdisc. (Also as an aside, Samsung made DVD, Sony made BluRay.) But I digress…

When DVD was first announced, I had never really cared much about physical media for movies and TV. But DVD sold me in a number of ways. First, there was no rewinding… that’s a plus right out of the gate. No dealing with damaged VHS tapes, or bad quality because you’ve watched something a few dozen times. Optical media just lasted better and was more convenient and better quality. On top of that though, I could play DVD on my PC easily and DVDs were prone to have a ton of special features and they also got rid of that stupid thing VHS liked to do and actually show the entire movie the way that it was meant to be seen. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here… before the advent of DVDs… when you went to buy a movie on VHS, it came in a 4:3 screen format to fit TV screens at the time. Which means they were cutting off the sides of the movies. DVDs were being released in full screen, meaning if you had a 4:3 screen… you’d get letterboxed… giving you black bars at the top and bottom of the screen so that the movie played in the correct ratio. I always hated it when I couldn’t watch something letterboxed. I wanted to see the whole thing.

So… I was sold. DVD was just a better product overall. I bought my first DVDs before I had a way to play them. Starship Troopers and Fifth Element were my first purchases in the DVD format because these two, for the time, had gotten extremely good reviews in both quality and special features available on disc.

Over the years, I bought probably around 150 DVDs on various movies and TV shows. Blu-Ray were released, and I started dutifully buying the new format appreciating the higher definition, but after about a few years of dealing with Blu-ray… I had noticed that I wasn’t really buying as much as I had with DVD.

Something happened that changed where I was with collecting the optical format, and it wasn’t just one thing to be honest. I was annoyed at having to re-buy all my DVDs… DVDs had been around for just 10 years before BluRay really hit. And the idea of having to re-buy the entire collection was just very disheartening. While I did appreciate the higher resolution of HD… I also just didn’t believe it was as huge of a deal as people made it out. Though I do like the higher resolution of HD, the main thing I got out of it, to this day, is a widescreen TV that fit the 16:9 ratio. (4K, to me suffers a similar issue. I don’t think 2180P is that much better for movies than 1080P to warrant rebuying everything and upgrading my TV, BUT HDR is a great feature that needed to happen and is the real thing to buy for.)

The other things that happened… I had Netflix and was very much sold on the streaming format before House of Cards even released, but when House of Cards dropped… I was all in. Also around this time, I moved into a new home and was reminded about just how many DVDs I had. And then lastly, I actually had enough hard drive space where I had ripped my entire movie collection onto my PC and that became a thing.

All these things combined… and I was officially sick of the physical optical media formats. So, I gathered my DVD movies… and sold them all to a friend for $1 a piece. I kept my Blu-Rays because they were current and my TV shows because I didn’t have the space to rip those… but even though I still had some… I was done collecting. I did buy some blu-rays going forward, but it was few and far between.

Things were fine… I still watched movies and TV shows constantly, even though I had gotten rid of cable TV years before because I had Netflix and Amazon Prime, but the world started changing again… 4K came out with even higher definition, validating my exit from Physical Media… 10 years later on the button (I know 8K TVs are out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if an 8K media format were released in 2026, though hard to say as studios aren’t entirely producing 4K still). But new issues have come up with the digital format.

Now… there are about 40 different streaming services, instead of 2 or 3. This has split content a ton. And each one of these services do a purposeful churn of content. Netflix has always had movies and shows coming and going each month… this started out because licensing would come and go. However, a lot of the new streaming networks decided to keep this churn going even though they fully own the content. Why? Because it means they have something to advertise when it comes, and then they advertise it again when it is leaving… “Hey look! We have Batman now! Come on over to our network and start watching it!” “Oh no! Batman is leaving, you better come to our network and watch it before it leaves!” It reminds me of Disney’s old thing where they’d only release physical movies every 7 years which created an artificial demand for their movies when they did release… it’s basically the same thing. They are creating an artificial demand in a format that was meant for us to be able to watch what we want, when we want it. Essentially, the promises of streaming are failing.

This cover image released by Atlantic Records shows “Birds Of Prey: The Album,” the original motion picture soundtrack. (Atlantic Records via AP)

A secondary side thing that has been happening is these networks are messing with the content itself. Sometimes it is good… HBO Max released HD versions of Sex and the City and Babylon 5. Netflix released HD versions of Star Trek: TNG. All this was good and may not have happened without the streaming networks. However, the reverse is actually kind of happening as well. Disney+ in particular is doing a terrible job at video. They are essentially doing what I always hated on DVD… except in reverse. Because everyone now has HD TVs in the 16:9 format, they are zooming in on 4:3 content and cutting off the top and bottom of the screen. There is no option out of this, this is how you have to watch it… not only are you just now missing part of the content cause it was removed… but it actually looks just terrible. I watched an episode of The Simpsons first season and it just looked bad, really bad. I think the program they use for zooming the screen is just really distorting the image…

There is a secondary issue with networks messing with content… and that is Political Correctness. There have been shows and movies through our history that were… inconvenient to say the least. And while some of them I do believe should be removed. Some of them, maybe we just include a disclaimer or something. My general feeling is that, if the content was made for adults… do a disclaimer and let the adult decide. If it was made for kids… depending on severity of the infraction, let’s go ahead and remove that. HBO Max did a great job with Gone with the Wind where they left it up, put a disclaimer on it, and then included a couple of side pieces where they discuss the long-term impact of the movie in a racial context. Disney+ did take off Song of the South, but episodes in various kids shows with insensitive context get a disclaimer that kids probably can’t read and/or understand. But then… The Office episode Diversity Day often gets deleted and I fully disagree with it. It is a show made for adults attacking racism… Yes there is racist talk on it, that specifically is how they are attacking it. Recently there was also a report that the Harley Quinn movie was edited in order to tone it down a little, not because anything was particularly un-PC… but more because they wanted it to be watched by more people. I am sort of OK with that, but they need to say it is an updated version, and they need to give me the option of the original.

On top of that, I have a lot of issues with the newer networks… from minor issues like they release their originals one episode at a time rather than letting me just binge the whole thing (I tend not to watch these originals because I wait for the season to be done so that I can binge them but then I forget them). This also leads to all of them having “last week on..” before every episode which you can’t skip out of that I find annoying. They often seem to have ads even though they say no ads (HBO Max in particular has this issue). They all seem to have issues remembering where I was on TV shows. And then there are major issues like… Amazon Prime just always had a terrible UI, and still does. Netflix’s UI has become a bit dated, but I still tend to prefer it over HBO Max & D+ which both have nice UIs that are less functional. And the biggest issue that I have is they all seem to have buffering issues that often causes the audio to not sync up with their voice. I never have this on Netflix but both HBO Max and D+ has it often. I have heard that Netflix gives ISPs stream boxes that contains the entire Netflix library so that when I stream on Netflix, it doesn’t have to go as far, this may be why this happens… but it doesn’t matter, for me it leads to bad experiences with movies.

All this has created an atmosphere in streaming where… I can’t watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it. And even when I can, it is kind of a hassle to figure out where to watch it and the quality is often not great. And so it made sense to me… about a year ago to get back into the physical game. It doesn’t help that I enjoy collecting shit…

To me, the fact that I find myself in a position of going back and spending money on physical media shows that there is a fundamental problem in the streaming world, not that the physical world is great. In video games, I am not fond of optical media, it tends to rot and get scratches, it’s a fragile media. In movies, there’s really no option, it’s optical or nothing. I refuse to dignify VHS as a valid option, although I know VHS has a growing collector community, I don’t understand it.

As a final aside, I don’t have a 4K TV still as they are still a little higher price than I want and I am looking for something very specific when I do finally buy one (or two). So I’m holding until prices drop or I get suddenly rich. But, like DVD in the first place… I have a burgeoning 4K collection already, it does help that they generally come with Blu-Rays, though I do have a 4K player that works on my TV, so I can still watch 4K movies on my 1080P TV. I just think it’s funny how history repeats itself with me buying media before I can truly enjoy it.