Friday, May 17, 2024

How Does Dirk Collect Movies?

This is a reply I made to a post on the r/dvdcollection sub at Reddit. If you stumbled over this somehow, please visit my film viewing log/review site for more.


My collecting has evolved over time due to changes in what's been available, physically or digitally.

I got my first DVD by accident in 1999 when my g/f bought it thinking it was the soundtrack CD to Rock 'n' Roll High School because it came in a jewel case. She hadn't even heard of DVD at the time. My second DVD was probably a lot of people's first with The Matrix which was so far ahead of its time with its handling of extras.

At the time standalone players were pricey (like $300+), so I got a DVD drive for my computer which came with a MPEG decoder card because there was no way a single core CPU was going to be able to play it. Unfortunately, the VGA passthru degraded regular video output so badly I was unusable. I eventually got a Pioneer DVD player from Costco for somewhere in the ballpark of $200, maybe $250. Progressive scan, very nice. (Just donated it to a veteran's thrift store last year.)

So collecting movies began with buying movies we'd seen in the theater when they landed on video. We'd comb the Sunday paper ads - remember when information came on paper, kids? - for the new releases coming on Tuesdays. This leads to a in-joke my g/f & I have: "Remember when we paid $17 for the DVD of Original Sin?"

What really helped in the mid-Aughts was I got freelance DVD reviewing gigs with a couple of prominent sites. (One rhymes with Why Be Ben.) They didn't pay (cheap bastards), but I got free DVDs in exchange for spending hours watching them & the extras then writing up full reviews of the films and technical quality of the discs. (One of my A/V critiques is in the Wikipedia entry for that movie.) I did my writing at work during downtime, so I was getting paid somewhat. Occasionally the editor would have some extra discs that I could have without reviewing. If a movie sucked, I'd sell it at the indie record store. (Remember when you could buy physical music for cheap, kids?)

I did over 300 reviews between 2004-2008. I invested in being able to review HD DVD and Blu-rays, but unfortunately right then there was an editor change and he dumped the existing freelancers to have his pals do the reviews. They sucked and pretty much ended the sites utility, but whatever. It was a nice run, but it was a lot of work for no money. I only did it to build a portfolio of published writing in hopes of getting other work and it did until that site's owner decided to just have the community do stuff for free. (Seems to be a theme.)

But the turning point was when video chain stores - hey kids, remember when you could drive to a store that had all the movies on shelves? - started selling their previously viewed titles for cheap. Why pay $15-$20 for a DVD when they were $10, no $8, wait, 2 for $5 used? I used to live a hundred yards from a Blockbuster, so I'd routinely stroll over and see what was new to the PPV shelves or what was in the bargain dump bins. Clerks would tell me when price cuts were coming down from HQ. When used Blu-rays came along, yeah baby! (IIRC my first used BDs were Eyes Wide Shut and Tropic Thunder at something like 2 for $25 at Blockbuster.)

What really filled the shelves was the death of video stores. First was Hollywood Video, then Blockbuster, finally Family Video (I have several posts of my hauls here) as my g/f and I looted their dying corpses. A LOT of blind buys because when they're as cheap as a buck, why not?

But with the exit of store went the best source of cheap movies. I have a Disc Replay near me and hit some 50% off Black Friday sales, but generally not much. There used to be a pawn shop that'd have some good stuff, but they dumped that and focused more on guns. Lots of guns. I see the posts from people scoring at Goodwill, but there are none around me and what places there are (Salvation Army, Value World) are almost solely DVDs. The library is mostly DVDs as well. Meh.

Now I do most of my buying digitally, starting in 2017 when Movies Anywhere started and the Apple TV 4K with Apple's decision to offer free 4K upgrades of titles. Bought one then hit the code-selling sites to snap up non-MA titles for as low as a dollar each. There are sales for $4-$5 4K titles all the time.

Now I know there are the unhinged "streaming looks worse than VHS!" partisans who believe physical or else, but when you are watching a movie once every five years or so or just once, it's impossible to justify the price difference. The Apocalypse Now: Final Cut 4K set is $40 at Amazon; I paid $5 for all three cuts on iTunes in 4K DV. It's missing some of the extras, but I'm OK with that. I still have my sealed The Complete Dossier DVD set which tells you how often I don't watch that movie. (Currently it's $28 on Amazon. I've had it listed for months on Facebook for $10 and no one wants it.)

Is physical better? Sure. Is it many times better? No, and the digital haters need to get a grip. As someone who used to judge A/V quality I'm sensitive to things and the dropoff isn't what the haters say. Audio seems to really benefit from disc. I saw Dune Part 1 the first time on Hobo Max, but when I rewatched it recently off the 4K disc I got from a Redbox for $4, the sound was so heavy that a light tree that sits on my Monolith subwoofer fell over!

Nowadays I still get discs when they're on sale like Criterions (latest pickups: After Hours 4K, Hollywood Shuffle, Barry Lyndon, Quadrophenia - last two blind buys) or something like The Warriors release Arrow did with all the cards and stickers as well as the new transfer. I buy movies I really love, though the prices are r-worded. Titanic and the Avatar 1&2 UCEs were $127 at Best Buy and only having a $50 RZ cert to burn made the per-disc cost tolerable.

Aliens is freaking $40, if it's even available, but was $5 on iTunes. While I love the movie and want everything Cameron makes on disc, the controversial changes he made with it, The Abyss, and especially True Lies really makes it hard to shell out for the best quality. Sigh. Hoping for Black Friday sales, but with so few sellers now, where is competition going to come from?

After a quarter century I've got about 3500 discs (1550 BD/4K, rest DVD or HD DVD) and 450 digital titles. (Columbia had a 100 movies for $100 deal which really ran up the count.) I have a lot of everything.

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