Friday, February 29, 2008

Movie Blow-Out Sale

My wife showed up at home the other day with a bunch of DVDs from the local OtherBigBoxOfMovies store. I asked why so many rentals all at once and she said she bought them because the store was closing. This was on a Wednesday and the inventory clearance had started on Monday. She asked the manager how quickly the good movies had been snapped up. He told her that corporate had made one pass at the stock for things that could be sent to another store. So the movies that were left were the ones not valuable enough to throw onto a truck. And there were a lot of them.

Knowing a good thing when we saw it, my son and I headed over to make our own selections. It took us nearly an hour to browse the whole place. New releases were going for $11.25 and back catalog was $7.50 each. These prices put things at a very narrow but interesting price point. The movie had to have been something I had never bothered to see in the theater or even buy new but still interesting enough to want to watch multiple times in order to justify paying more than a standard rental. When all was said and done, our family's picks included:
  • The Prince & Me
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Happy Feet
  • Mad Max
  • Hairspray (2007)
  • Empire Records
  • Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  • La Vie En Rose
  • Paris, Je T'Aime
  • Hero
  • Thank You For Smoking
  • How I Met Your Mother - Season 1, Disc 1 and Disc 2
  • Weeds - Season 1, Disc 1 and Disc 2
I’ll let you figure out which each of us had selected. I will confess that I was the one that picked out the discs of television series episodes. My son just shook his head at me and said, “Dad, it’s just easier to get these off the web.” He had a point. Movies look good on the new HDTV, especially with the upconverting home theater DVD player I got to go with it (see this post for my latest contribution to the health of the consumer electronics industry), but there is no special cachet to seeing a regular TV show in high-def full screen quality.

Except for Father/Son Nerd Night, I don’t think my son has seen a regular network show on a real television in years. He downloads literally hundreds of hours of fan-subtitled anime off the internet and he can often be heard at his computer chuckling at muted japanamation shows late into the night. Most of these shows are unavailable in the US until months or years after they’ve originally aired in Japan. And my son despises the American actor dialog redubbings on aesthetic grounds. When they do finally make a cable network schedule, they have often been edited for content and length beyond recognition. On the other hand, the pirated labor-of-love “fan-dubs” hit BitTorrent within a week of the original international airing with astoundingly predictable precision.

I told my boss about the OtherBigBoxOfMovies closing and she said, “That’s a shame. I used to go there all the time before I joined Netflix.” Exactly. This is why the traditional methods of A/V entertainment distribution are withering. In addition to the OtherBigBoxOfMovies that is now closing, the OriginalBigBoxOfMovies nearest me closed over a year ago. I now have to drive over five miles if I want to bother find a new release completely rented out so that I can come home with my second or third choice of movies to watch.

With the HD-DVD format throwing in the towel, my wife is wondering how long until we are forced to get a BluRay player because she thinks the studios will eventually quit releasing standard DVDs. I don’t think this will ever be an issue. The convergence of high speed broadband, cheap DVRs, and terabyte sized hard drives is just screaming direct digital downloads, bypassing any real physical manifestation of the movie. As this Wired article posits, digital downloads are the inevitable next step and movie companies can either ride the train or get run over by it.

Still, the psychological fetish for a tangible totem of ownership is strong. I have dozens of movies I own because I want to say I have them rather than out of any real desire to watch it over and over again. But someday these too will become yard sale remainders. And until some other rising retail chain needs the space, the now defunct OtherBigBoxOfMovies store will stand empty as a silent tombstone on the grave of the ever-changing media marketplace.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Are DVDs dead?
BonusBlatantCommentWhoring™: Which disc should I watch first and which should I have avoided?


Malnurtured Snay said...

I don't think standard DVD is dead (yet) but I think that as more and more people buy High Def TVs and buy BluRay to accompany them, the availability of standard DVD will continue to drop until either DVD (BluRay & Standard) is either released by another format or by direct-download, or until one of the Big Chains decides that carrying Standard DVD no longer makes sense, at which point they'll announce they'll no longer carry them, other chains will join suit, and it'll go the same way as VHS/HD-DVD.

That said: if you have a high def TV, why not go BluRay? The prices on the hardware are dropping, and I'm sure the prices on the discs themselves will drop in the future.

Needles said...

But, but... what about the full cabinet (3x3x3) of vhs tapes I have. Are you saying this too is dead?

Its going to take a long time till dvd dies, just like vhs.

And if you don't watch Mad Max (shakes head very sadly)or Were-Rabbit first, you should jsut hand in your movie watcher card right now. You may even want to consider tarnishing your nerd card for not seeing Were-Rabbit yet. Wallace and Grommit were on the nerd list in Haute Maine since their inception.

Malnurtured Snay said...

"Flushed Away" is pretty good, if you haven't seen it yet.

apricoco said...

DVD/Movie rental stores are dead, as for the format? I'm not sure, but I think it has some life left in it.

Your best purchase? Weeds, hands down. Watch and be prepared for the funny.

Elizabeth said...

I agree, you need to put Mad Max in your player right now and watch it! And I would skip Hairspray
(2007, the original 1988 John Water's is so so somuch better!

yellojkt said...

Oh, I've seen Mad Max several times. This one is some sort of special anniversary edition that has special bonus features.