Why Physical Media Shouldn’t Die

The Last Jedi is one of the most polarizing films in the Star Wars pantheon of films. Some people love the movie to bits while others would love to squash the movie to bits. I definitely fall on the former camp. While I understand why The Last Jedi has its fair share of haters, I still enjoyed it and I’m actually looking forward for its home release. The thing is, it appears it will be getting two home release dates. The Last Jedi will be available for digital HD download this Tuesday, March 13, while it will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray a little bit later on March 27.

This has been the pattern ever since digital download and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon became mainstream. In a way, I can see why this makes good business sense. It takes less money and effort for a film studio to release content for the homes via the Internet as they don’t have to press out DVDs and Blu-Rays. They don’t have to make large shipments to stores and retail outlets. It’s also beneficial for the consumer since they don’t have to schlep to their local store and wait in line to get their very own copy of the film. There’s also the possibility of the DVD and Blu-Ray are either sold out or out of stock, so you may have gotten through all the trouble of getting to the store and still come home empty handed. So, companies have generally been shifting to the digital side rather than relying on physical media.

I may understand this is the trend and all the benefits that come with digital streaming services but, call me a dinosaur, but I still prefer holding some kind of physical media like a disc in my hand. In fact, I believe there is something dangerous if, in the future, physical copies like DVDs and Blu-Ray become extinct.

One of the biggest issues I have with streaming services is it never seems fast enough for me. Let’s say I want to watch something like, say, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is one of the Blu-Rays I have in my shelf right now. I can simply pop that sucker in my PlayStation 3 (yes, I still use my PlayStation 3 for watching videos) and play it immediately. If I wanted to do the same thing on something like Netflix, I have to log into my account, search for The Nightmare Before Christmas in my library, click play, wait for it to buffer before I even get to watch it.

Another problem with the entire streaming service thing is I never really feel like I own the thing that I bought. It feels more like I purchased the rights to watch it at anytime, as long as I keep on paying my subscription fee. If I own something, why the heck would I have to pay a monthly stipend to Netflix and Amazon for the “privilege” to watch something I bought? If I really owned it, then Netflix and Amazon should allow me to watch it even if I cancel my subscription service, right? But that’s generally not the way things are, is it?

There are also these things called licensing rights. Essentially, streaming services make a deal with the movie distributors so they can give their subscribers the access to the films and television shows. Unfortunately, these licensing agreements don’t stretch out to infinity. Sometimes, companies like Warner Bros., will even create their own streaming services and pull out their films and TV programs off Netflix so they have the upper hard when it comes to content. I’ve already talked about the dangers of having too many streaming services popping up and how this can cause some current streaming services to dry out of content. But what about the people who already paid for the film on those services? I know Netflix used to have Mean Girls in their library but they took it out earlier last year. Did the people who purchased Mean Girls get something like a refund since they can’t watch it anymore? Even if they did refund the money, that doesn’t change the fact that they want to watch Mean Girls but they can’t anymore.

Okay, this has mainly be a knock on streaming services. But what about digital downloads? It really isn’t as hip as streaming services but they are there. They don’t appear to have any of the pitfalls as you don’t need to be connected online to watch the thing you bought. You would think I would fine with this and I am for the most part. I do like the idea of being able to download a movie on your mobile device or PC so you can watch it anytime you want. There are also huge benefits, such as not having to get a shelf dedicated to all your DVDs and Blu-Ray copies. Your entire movie collection can theoretically be stored in something as big as a portable hard drive, making it not only a space saving option but a handy one as well.

My only real problem with digital download copies are “cold” they feel. I may have an attachment to the movies and TV shows I download but I don’t have that same connection with the actual copy of the movie and TV show. That’s because I didn’t have to go through any hardship to get any digital downloaded copy. All I had to do was go online, click on the movie I wanted, wait for it to download and I’m done.

That’s fine and all but, if you do this, you always have to use that device or another one that’s licensed to you. This is because of DRM technology. I can see why most companies would do this as movie piracy has always been a huge problem and they wouldn’t want people freely sharing their copies with their friends or other people. Well, if you have a DVD or Blu-Ray, there’s no hassle; just loan them the disc. Easy-peasy!

Additionally, paying for digital downloads may be convenient but there isn’t a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t have to do any effort to go online and find the movie or show that I wanted to get. I don’t have anything tangible in my hand, which doesn’t make it feel meaningful. Even if I have a plethora of downloaded movies, I just don’t get the same feeling of contentment if I just see those images on my screen or if I just see a computer folder filled with different filenames. The collection feels empty because I put no effort into it and the collection doesn’t feel worthwhile.

As someone who like collecting things, I know a big part of the joy I feel when hoarding something like movies or toys is the effort I put into it. For most collecting, the “having” is just the outcome of the hobby. Most collectors, in one way or another, love the thrill of the hunt. We want to actually be able to touch it with our fingers and be able to display it proudly on our shelves. It works for movies but I guess bookworms and comic book readers can attest to the awesome feeling of holding something palpable in our hands or looking at something that’s physically there on our shelf.

But there is a danger of physical copies dying out or, at the least, becoming more and more scarce as the trend it leaning towards going all digital. Streaming and digital copies are now outperforming physical copies across the board. Digital downloads are released a good two weeks earlier than the DVD and Blu-Ray copies as seen with The Last Jedi. Some movies aren’t even getting disc versions anymore. I guess you can say that this is progress and this new form of technology is better for the casual consumer. But collectors have a much more discerning standards and quirks. We still love going to the store or ordering online to get a DVD or Blu-Ray shipped out to us. We love cluttering our room with all those discs and cases. If physical copies die, there will definitely be much sorrow in the world.

Do you still buy physical copies or have to gone all digital now? Let me know in the comments section below!

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