Defending the Disc– A Meditation on Physical Media 

 

Written by Drew Lascot

The Criterion Collection. Arrow Films. Eureka Entertainment. Shout! Factory. Vinegar Syndrome. Blue Underground. AGFA. Synapse. Grindhouse Releasing. Severin Films..

These are names less familiar than the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, or HBO Now, catering to a niche once served by Suncoast, Hollywood Video, and of course, Blockbuster.

 While streaming services divvy content up around to the highest bidder, the ever-increasingly popular thing among corporations these days appears to be starting their own, locking down exclusive content. Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone reboot can’t be seen on the over-the-air TV channel, but you can pony up for the $6 per month subscription or remove the ads for an extra $4. Like all those Netflix Marvel programs? Get ready for them to move to Disney Now and to pay an extra $7 a month to watch them. Was The Office the perfect show to default on when you couldn’t find anything? Hope you don’t mind booting up NBCUniversal in 2021. If you’re into anime, chances are you’re already shelling out for Crunchyroll.  To think Bob’s Burgers moving to Hulu a couple years ago seemed like the biggest possible travesty. Not to mention the countless movies that have been put up and taken down over the years, always just before the night the mood finally strikes, too. 

Of course, consolidating all media to one streaming platform isn’t just impractical, it could result in a pricing/ad situation worse than it is currently; competition is a good thing in the marketplace we live in. What’s not good is bundling your favorite streaming services into a package costing more than cable TV in the first place. The exclusivity issue brings the concern of needing even more services to be able to watch all your favorite shows. Supposing you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and South Park, that’s already three streaming services required for three of TV’s biggest shows. As a fan of film, it can be even harder to find a streaming service that offers up what you may want. Some may have more contemporary films, but nothing older than the early 2000s. Others may focus on a specific genre, like the horror-streaming Shudder. Then comes the problem of the desire to watch more than managavlel! Or maybe the friends are over and  you want to show them something fun you just discovered, but poof.

With all this turbulence and uncertainty I offer an old-school alternative that won’t disappear under your nose: the humble DVD, or in the case of 2019 more so the Blu-ray/4K UHD disc. DiabolikDVD happens to be one of my favorite avenues when online shopping for movies in particular, as owner and long time home video veteran Jesse Nelson has curated products from the world over, from unique labels that distribute some truly off-the-beaten-path pictures. Nelson took some time to speak on the ecosystem of streaming services and physical media. 

“I have been in the business long before streaming was a concern and I have seen streaming change from a novelty to a thriving part of the business,” said Nelson. “Initially I would say we had pretty mixed feelings about streaming. It is obviously a convenient competitor and if you already have a streaming service that features a movie that you were thinking about buying, you are probably more likely to watch it there rather than pay $20 for a physical copy for your shelf. The same goes for Day and Date VOD (Video on Demand). Why wait for your copy of the latest movie when you can have instant gratification?”

Clearly Nelson is aware of the benefits on offer by his competitor, but as he explains further, his market and streaming work together as often as they’re competing. 

“Streaming services actually help our business as much as competes. I don’t care how good your internet connection is, Netflix is never going to look as good as a properly mastered blu-ray and due to this, I have seen sales increase for popular titles like TERRIFIER. It is readily available to watch for ‘free’ on Netflix, but the more people that watch it and talk about it, we sell more copies. My customers that love a movie, want it to be the best possible quality.”

For those not as concerned with achieving the best picture quality possible at home, Nelson divulges further into the problem with the library-for-rent service that streaming offers. 

“You never own anything on Netflix or, as customers have found, even on iTunes. Movies, books, music that people have paid to own have been disappearing as agreements expire.  Items you thought you owned forever are gone without notice. The only way to guarantee ownership is to have a physical copy.”

The icing on the cake when you get a physical edition, especially from a label like any listed at the start, is the addition of supplemental features: making of documentaries, interviews with cast and crew, retrospectives, promo material, discussions on the film from other filmmakers, soundtracks, all these and more are commonly found on physical editions. Nelson points out the physical in physical copies

“I really cater to a collector’s market,” said Nelson, “Booklets, slipcovers, cases, all contribute to the need to own. For now I co-exist with streaming more than ever as a symbiotic relationship.”

Disc editions not only supply the best possible way to watch films you may already enjoy, but boutique labels are also great ways to delve deeper into the world of genre film, as many releases wouldn’t have the same broad appeal of the typical Netflix original. So take the risk and try something new, or maybe go out and buy that new favorite movie, even if it’s on Netflix, because it’s not going to last forever.

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