Physical entertainment is on its last legs — and they’re getting gammier by the month. Before we know it, DVDs and Blu-rays will have gone the way of LaserDisc and VHS tape. To the streamers and torrenters of the world this will be viewed as no big loss: they think it’s an obsolete format that’s overpriced, prone to scratches and less convenient than digital downloads.
But not me. Here’s why I’m sticking with discs to the bitter end, and why you should too.
#1 There’s more variety at the store
When it comes to movie choice, even the most prolific streaming service can’t hope to compete with a JB Hi-Fi or video rental store. (Yes, there are still a few of those around, believe it or not.) On multiple occasions, I’ve felt a hankering to watch a certain film, only to find it unavailable on all of Australia’s main streaming services. This is especially true if you enjoy pre-1980s cinema, foreign movies or anything in black and white.
The same goes for torrenting — while you won’t have any trouble finding the latest blockbuster in 1080p (you filthy pirate), pristine copies of more obscure fare can be trickier to track down. When physical media disappears, a lot of movies of middling popularity will go with it.
#2 There’s less variety in your lounge room
The problem with streaming services is that you don’t get to build your own bespoke collection and the choice can be overwhelming. More often than not, instead of actually watching something you mindlessly surf the catalogue for an hour and then head to bed. (Maybe that’s what popularised ‘Netflix-and-chill’?) With physical media, you know exactly what you own and it’s subsequently much easier to choose what you want to watch. There’s no crap or filler; just stuff you own by choice.
#3 You own what you pay for
When you subscribe to Netflix, Stan and the like, you’re paying for the service — not the movies. Obviously, cancelling your membership cuts off access to the entire catalogue, but movies also disappear from the roster due to expired licensing or to make room for new titles. In short, you can never guarantee that a movie you love will stick around for long.
With physical media, the copy is yours to keep and nobody can take it away from you. Provided you have access to working equipment, the discs will be available to watch forever.
#4 Special features a-go-go!
For whatever reason, streaming services have shied away from including special features for movies and TV shows. If you’re lucky, you might get a trailer and a perfunctory making-of, but that’s about it. By contrast, DVDs and Blu-rays typically come packed to the gills with supplementary material: everything from audio commentaries and in-depth documentaries to concept artwork and onset photography. For film buffs, this stuff is like catnip.
For proof, just look at the Extended Editions of The Lord Of The Rings: the extras are arguably more enthralling than the actual movies, especially if you have an interest in film making. On Google Play, iTunes and Aussie streaming services, you don’t get any of this stuff. Tch.
#5 You get to display them
For movie fans in the ’80s and ’90s, displaying your library was a big part of the appeal in being a collector. Like a book shelf, it revealed what you were into, enticed guests to browse what you owned and let you silently brag about the size of your collection. In a purely digital world, all that is gone. Sure, it frees up a ton of space in your lounge room, but part of your identity is now hidden online.
#6 Guaranteed quality
An officially produced DVD or Blu-ray will always look and sound top-notch. While extreme videophiles might complain about certain transfers, it’s nothing the average viewer is going to notice. Anyone who has torrented content illegally can attest to the hit-and-miss nature of sites like The Pirate Bay. Even legit services like Netflix are entirely dependent on internet speed — with video quality dipping accordingly.
#7 There’s no proprietary bullshit
iTunes movie downloads can only be viewed via your iTunes account. Streaming services require online connectivity to the app. And so on and so forth. If you’re a serious movie fan, your collection is probably spread across several digital platforms — none of which are compatible with each other. To play physical media, all you need is a single region-free Blu-ray player. Simples!
#8 It stops you being a fat lazy jerk
If you’ve moved exclusively to streaming, try going back to DVDs. I guarantee you will now hate getting off your arse to insert and swap over discs. This is something that you used to do without even thinking. Like the TV remote before it, the convenience of streaming is turning us all into extreme couch potatoes. Pretty soon, we’ll all look like those sentient blobs from Wall-E.
So, am I alone here? Does anyone else prefer ye olde discs to digital services? Share your thoughts in the comments!