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Collecting Myself: The Irresistible Urge of the “Impulse Buy” DVDs…

I admit that I may have something approaching a problem.

I’m a nerd – a movie nerd. So, at this time of year, as Christmas approaches, I find myself tempted by all the bright lights and shiny sales stickers I can find on DVDs and blu rays – as the shops start marking them down in a serious attempt to shift some merchandise in the lead-up to one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Last night, I went to HMV, intending to pick up the newly released Three Colours trilogy on blu ray. It’s a masterpiece of European cinema, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it once again. However, despite the fact that they didn’t have the trilogy, I somehow managed to leave with five blu rays in my bag.

They were having a sale, you see. And I realise that sounds like the lamest rationalisation ever.

Okay, I’ll concede that my spending isn’t the problem here – I’m not spending above my means or any nonsense like that. I’m notoriously cheap, so I’ve only really started buying into blu ray once the prices dropped significantly. Space, on the other hand, might be the issue. Where do I put all these discs I picked up? I’m beginning to suspect I might need to invest in some sort of “man cave” to store all my accumulated knick-knacks. At the moment, my collection is overflowing from the shelves in my room, and I reckon I’ll be able to skilfully re-shelf everything so I can make them fit. For the moment. I know that time and circumstances will change, and I realise I’m lucky to be able to do this now.

And, in my defense, I’m not buying stuff I don’t want. I’ve never been bitten by that completest bug that some people feel. If I had, I’d be reluctant to pick up one or two of The Criterion Collection – if I had some sort of obsessive-compulsive thing, the three-digit numbers on the spine would drive me wild. I don’t feel the need to buy a completed set including items I don’t want – unless it’s cheaper than buying the items I do want. So I don’t own Batman Forever or Speed 2 on blu ray, and have no compulsion to. I didn’t have a complete James Bond collection until I took part in James Bond January, and – even then – I picked up the DVDs at ridiculously low prices. And I never double-dip. Everybody has their own rules of movie-hunting.

All this sounds like defensive rationalisation. “I can afford it!” I insist, “And it’s not like I can’t stop myself!” And still, I do admit that maybe I go a tad too far. Cost has always been a big issue for me – I’m a big fan of waiting for the cost of a title to drop before investing it (unless I’m working under an artificial constraint). For example, I am consciously waiting for the Harry Potter blu rays and the Jurassic Park blu rays to drop in price before I invest. However, when I see titles at a reasonably affordable price, I can’t resist.

The discs last night were “2 for €18” – or, in effect, €9 each. I did a hasty “inside my head” calculation (that’s a tier below “back of the envelope”). Assuming it cost €5 to rent the same movie, I would have to be sure that I would watch the disc at least twice in order to justify the cost. And, because I’m a massive film nerd who loves movies, that was a fairly easy line for me to cross. I came home with The Princess Bride, Enter the Dragon, Speed and Cronos. I like to think that I can justify those choices.

Of course, I do this knowing that I am a dying breed. Ireland doesn’t yet have a video-on-demand service, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time. There is a giant clock ticking down inside my head, as I realise that, probably within my lifetime, the digital disc will become obsolete and be a thing of the past. I know there will be a time when printing a disc of a new movie will be akin to those promotional LPs that modern bands produce, a tip-of-the-hat to the novelty market rather than a sustainable industry of itself. I accept the reality of technological advancement, and I welcome some of the possibilities – in particular, the capacity to open up the market to a whole new generation of filmmakers who might not be able to work inside conventional distribution channels.

Still, accepting all this, I like my disc. I like the idea that I own a copy of a film. That I’m not just streaming it from a server somewhere to watch so long as it happens to be available, but that I hold it in my hand and can put it on whenever and wherever I choose. It is, I suppose, similar to the feeling of the reader in the digital age – the person who will miss the smell of fresh ink on a new book, or the feeling of paper twixt their fingers, something the Kindle simply cannot replicate.

It’s part of the fun for me, to see the spines arranged on my shelf, to come upstairs when I have a free two hours and spend a good ten minutes trying to match my mood to particular film. This isn’t to say there isn’t something similar for video-on-demand serves, but merely a reflection on part of my movie-watching that I enjoy. When it’s family move night, I like bringing down four or five discs and having the family actually physically examine and move them as each on is moved into or taken out of consideration, the choice gradually whittled down.

I don’t say this with anger, or bitterness, or even sadness. The world changes, and I accept that. We’ll change with it. I’ll probably acclimatise quite well to video-on-demand, and I can definitely see the positives. That said, I do feel nostalgic as I browse the aisles at HMV, and wonder how many years the shop will look like this. After all, I imagine there will be some time in the future when a young relative stumbles across my own little treasure trove and asks, “What’s a blu ray?” Then I’ll point them to this silly little blog post I wrote decades ago, and they’ll ask, “What’s video-on-demand?” Or, better yet, “What’s a blog?”

Still, that time isn’t here yet, and I’m free to continue picking up those offers I just can’t refuse. Hey, maybe the shift to the digital age will at least alleviate my space issue.

2 Responses

  1. I’ve been reading more and more about films being presented on USB sticks in the near future as the price of those nears that of a disk. I guess it’s a compromise between discs and streaming. Like you, I’m a stickler for having DVDs/Blu Rays in the house, scanning shelf after shelf for the perfect film, but the impulse buys (online and in stores) mean I’ve got hundreds of unwatched films that are just taking up space and unlikely to be put on any time soon.

    No matter how many films you can watch online NOTHING beats peeling the cellophane from a fresh purchase!

  2. I have a similar problem that I keep running out of space for my DVDs/Blu-Rays, though I have been guilty of buying movies that I probably shouldn’t have. This is because if I wanted to watch a movie and the rental was about the same as just purchasing a used (or reduced price) disc, then I’d just buy it. This led to having certain movies that I really don’t care if I ever see again. I will buy box sets of movies, also, so yes I own a copy of “Batman & Robin” (it’s actually worth it just to listen to Joel Schumacher apologize on the commentary track).

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