The unfortunate demise of DVD

 

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The esteemed Wayne Alan Harold (of TOWNIES fame) sent me a link to this debate over on The A.V. Club website:

Crosstalk: Is The Golden Age Of DVD Over?

For those who are too lazy to read it, basically it says that the best years of DVD are behind us, despite the fact that not everything has made it to the format yet. Sadly, the piece is mostly dead-on.

I remember the excitement leading up to the limited introduction of DVD in early 1997. (Coincidentally, I had timed my move from Ohio to L.A. right around the time of the format’s rollout, since L.A. was one of the handful of early test markets.) I had actually written a piece in Alternative Cinema magazine a year or more prior to that about how the format was going to revolutionize the industry and send VHS scurrying into some dark corner. And that was true, but sadly I couldn’t see the downside of that at the time.

I’ve been a home video collector a long time, dating back to the Betamax era. As VHS was crowned king, video stores started to liquidate their old Beta stock and I was there to snap ’em up. Eventually I also had a big VHS and laserdisc collection, but DVD would wipe them all from my memory soon enough, save for a few tapes & discs that I held onto thinking they’d never be released on the new format (eventually they all were, with the single exception of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN… damn you, MGM!).

Of course, while the first few years of DVD were exciting times indeed — I remember hitting the local stores every Tuesday to scoop up the new releases, and those I couldn’t get would show up in the mail each week — eventually it started to be less fun, probably starting around 2001 when I launched Tempe DVD. By that point, I had collected most everything I wanted and studios were starting to double (and triple!) dip their popular catalog titles. (Seriously, Anchor Bay… how many versions of THE EVIL DEAD and HALLOWEEN do we need???)

Of course, there are still titles left to be released, but as The A.V. Club boys note, studios are left with little incentive to do it because they’ve already picked the best fruit from the trees. They bring up a great point with THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and THE BOB NEWHART SHOW — two of my childhood TV favorites, and series who may never have complete DVD sets because the studios lost interest or weren’t making enough money. I finally just finished Season 1 of another childhood guilty pleasure, FANTASY ISLAND, and I’d happily pay to buy the rest of the seasons (stop laughing… it’s the video equivalent of comfort food!), but the wait is getting longer and longer with no Season 2 in sight. At least MPI Home Video had the good sense to finish DARK SHADOWS and has even gone back to release the pre-Barnabas episodes (I just got THE BEGINNING Volume 5 — one more to go and I have ’em all!).

As we drove past a strip mall the other day that used to house one of the video stores I raided in search of used Betamax tapes years ago, I was lamenting to my wife that the fun has gone out of home video collecting. Back in the day, it was fun to have a long wish list of titles and to actually find one of them and be able to cross it off the list. Today, while I still have a small wish list I keep on Amazon.com, I’m not as passionate about collecting… most of the stuff I have listed there would be nice to have, but it’s not gonna make my year to get any of them. I simply have too many other choices for entertainment, what with Netflix rentals and streaming, Dish HD and various other download services.

I think it’s probably the same for the rest of you, too. We’ve all reached a point where we have so many discs (and if you’re like me, you probably seldom even watch them!) and there are just too many other things to spend your hard-earned money on. In many respects, DVD is the perfect medium, no matter how Sony and their cohorts try to jam Blu-ray down consumers’ throats (and most of them are rejecting it, because DVD is plenty good enough). So the real question is, will my kid look at my shelves of DVDs the same way I look at my parents’ old 8-track tapes in 10 years? It seems inconceivable now, but the onslaught of free, instant, always-on media outlets like YouTube certainly points to a future that will bear this out.

As much as I’m ready to embrace the downloadable future, I’m still not quite ready to let go of my DVD collection, even though I threaten every few months to liquidate most of it to free up space in the living room. How about you?

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This entry was posted on Saturday, August 9th, 2008 at 12:46 pm and is filed under Complaint Department, Movies, Random Thoughts, Seen & Heard, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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