Why Physical Media Rules
Shout! Factory employees take their movie and television libraries seriously! Several of the collectors on staff got together to share what they love about owning 4Ks, Blu-rays, and DVDs and why physical collecting will never die out, even as digital becomes an important component of watching the best and latest releases.
“If film survives in any form, it will be because of collectors, people who care with the same passion accorded to centuries-old paintings.” — Oliver Stone, Chasing The Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and the Movie Game
Ownership. Recent events have made it crystal clear there’s no guarantee your favorite movie or television show will be available on streaming forever—but if a studio loses the rights to a film, decides to put it “in the vault,” has to pull a title because of music licensing issues, or decides to pull it to take a tax write-off, they can’t take away the disc that’s already on your shelf.
Bonus features. Most streaming services don’t even bother with audio commentaries (although you can find a few on Shout! Factory TV), let alone the countless hours of behind-the-scenes material that have been produced for home video releases. For cinephiles who want to know how their favorite movies were made, there’s simply no substitute for home video.
Film History. If you’re hunting for anything made before 1990, good luck finding it on streaming (also, sorry for breaking the news to you that your favorite 1980s flicks count as “classic” films now). As streaming services continue to put more and more emphasis on “originals” (read: recent productions), classic films are going to become harder and harder to view—unless you have a healthy collection of DVDs, Blu-rays, and 4K discs on your shelf.
Investment. “I’m not a hoarder, it’s an investment.” We joke about this a lot at the office, but we also wish we had held on to some more copies of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. That now out-of-print Shout release retailed for $34.93, but now regularly goes for over $100 from resellers.
Let me set the scene.
You’ve just acquired your personal Holy Grail DVD/Blu-ray/4K UHD from a local purveyor of such goods (or online retailer). Point is, it’s in your possession, it’s finally yours.
You hold it in your hand, feeling the weight of it. Run your palm over it, feeling the slickness of the shrink wrap. Speaking of: That stupid shrink wrap has gotta go. Dumb, idiot shrink wrap.
You tear into it (or perform careful micro-surgery), removing the protective layer, crinkling it in your fist and tossing it aside. It’s like it’s your birthday or something!
The main prize finally revealed, you now examine its entire surface, front and back. What a great cover (or scary, or funny). You read the extras, blurbs, and credits on the back cover. (Oh, she was executive producer on this? Cool!)
You can smell the ink and plastic used to make this glorious object you hold in your hands. You open the case (crack), thumb the center ring (pop) and slide the disc into your player, which hums mechanically as it closes. It’s almost a sensation overload.
And after you finish watching, you add your newly obtained keepsake to the shelf where you keep similar keepsakes. You stare at it from across the room, knowing you can go back and relive this magical, tactile adventure any time you want.
This whole ritual is part of what makes physical media so appealing. None of this bliss can be attained through cold, lifeless digital. You can’t arrange your digital downloads by spine color. You can’t take your digital download into your local record shop for in-store credit. No one says, “Look at my digital download collection!” (Not without a very sad, empty look in their eyes.)
Physical media forever.
The days of Blockbuster are gone but not forgotten. There was something special about picking out a movie on a Friday night based on the box art and a couple paragraphs on the back. Scrolling endlessly through all the streaming services feels less rewarding, and it’s frustrating when I go to my to-watch list and half of the films I’ve added to it have since been removed from the platform.
Knowing that I have all my favorite films at my fingertips in their highest quality with interviews and commentary means I always have the standbys I can put on that bring me comfort, make me laugh, or lead to a good cry. Plus, showing off the collection is half the fun. I enjoy organizing by actor or label and choosing which movies I put on display. I love the nostalgia of the box art from different eras, seeing old trailers and commercials when I pop them in, and having the ability to lend them out to friends and family. The only thing better than watching a movie I love is getting someone else to watch that movie!
Having people over for movie night and letting them browse through my movies is like putting an iPod on shuffle and having only the weirdest songs come up. It’s vulnerable but so satisfying when someone gets excited for something I haven’t seen in a while or that I know that they’ll love. It makes the movie watching experience more social. Being in the same room with someone as they watch my favorite movie is an unbeatable feeling.
Being a product of the early ‘90s meant I had a “cool uncle” who just so happened to work at a now-defunct media retailer. Here’s a hint: it rhymes with Powered Deckards. Every now and then, he’d drop off huge payloads of VHS tapes; I’d spend endless summers sifting through boxes, picking out movies I thought looked cool, and tossing aside the ones that didn’t.
Back then, I wasn’t old enough to perceive the true magic in physical media that modern moviegoing has lost in the age of streaming. There was weight, it was tangible and tactile, with splendid artwork that spoke volumes to the kind of ride you were in for. To hold it in your hands is to appreciate the little nuances that excite you about movies, instead of just becoming a cluster of pixels on an endless online carousel.
Everybody misses the Golden Age of the video store. Scanning the aisles for an awesome discovery that catches your eye. Holding the dazzling cover art in your hands. Flipping a title over to read more about it on the back. Leaving the rental joint with a slab of movies to watch over the weekend.
The most common complaint nowadays is that streaming can never compete with the number of titles the average store used to stock, no matter how many services you subscribe to. But what’s the big deal? If you’re willing to shell out an extra $3.99 on the iMazon store, surely you can rent whatever your heart desires with the click of a button, right?
Wrong, and here’s where home media rights get weird and scary. Even the hugest blockbusters of yesterday can disappear without rhyme, reason, or warning. First, it might just be from your favorite digital download destination. But next thing you know, whether due to computer storage crash or corporate revocation of rights, it could be from your device. But I'll give you my Blu-rays when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.
You can always add more films and television to your library from our store, and we have plenty of digital offerings available wherever you buy and rent movies. What’s YOUR reason for collecting?