I Still Buy DVDs

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

March 30, 2009:

It’s probably unthinkable in financial times like these that one could do such a thing. With the rise of mail order rental houses like Netflix and the supplemental option of Red Box and any number of DVD clubs, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could want to shell out a whopping $19.95 for a DVD (or more if said individual splurges for a special 2-disc edition of anything) when these alternatives are so much more affordable.

And yet, I do such a thing. Fairly regularly. I’ve even made a hobby out of visiting Best Buy.

I used to be a junkie about it. To me, a visit to Best Buy was like going on vacation. There was even a time (when Best Buy was still new) that I’d call a friend just to rub in the fact that I was vacationing in some exotic locale (like Atlanta, Georgia), spending a fraction of that time at the location’s Best Buy. It was absurd, if not a means to capitalize on some really bad inside joke, and it continued for years.

And I owe a lot of that addiction to my DVD collection. If not for my incessant need to build upon it, I probably would’ve found a different place to find solace.

I admit that my initial reasons for buying DVDs (and VHS when that was still the main form of home entertainment) was to give myself enough time to watch it. The first time I saw Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I saw it on VHS. As a rental. And I watched it, watched it again, laughed, watched it again…and eventually had to return it to the video store, disappointed that the fun had to end. And sometime later I rented it again…and it just seemed pointless to sink extra money into something that I’d rather have lying around the house. So when I was fourteen, I asked my aunt for my own copy of the movie. When Christmas came, the movie came with it, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure became mine forever.

And I’m proud to say that nineteen years later, it’s still on my movie rack. If I wanted to watch it after submitting this blog, I could. Not even Netflix could offer me that luxury (unless I had planned on watching it after writing this blog…a few days ago). It was as true then as it is today. I wanted to own the movie because I never wanted to take it back to a video store. It probably saved me a lot of gas over the years.

But why should I keep adding to my collection when things like Netflix make the convention obsolete? Why should I give dust something new to cover? Don’t these special rental sites waive late fees now? Don’t they cost mere pennies a day? If I were to put DVD purchases on a scale with rentals, the cost alone would tip favorably in the rental corner. So why keep doing it?

When I consider my original purpose for this, that plan to make available whatever I wanted to watch whenever I wanted to watch it–without jumping into my car–I have to say that buying DVDs isn’t so bad. It’s true that the alternative is cheaper, but I must admit that my movie-watching moods change on a dime. There have been more than one instance where I was sitting at my computer writing a story, when I thought, Hey, I’m in the mood for Caddyshack. Fortunately, I also have Caddyshack on my movie rack, just a few titles down from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I can watch it any time. No gas or postage required. Just laughs, gophers, and Bill Murray ogling over old ladies. On demand.

Will I stop? That’s doubtful. While this troubling economy has inflicted its sickness onto my income, ultimately reducing my visits to Best Buy to a near standstill, I still think about the day when I can finally walk through those doors and buy my own copy of Quantum of Solace so that I can have another James Bond marathon whenever I have time to watch 22 movies in a month. I think about how nice it is to watch it without fear of pre-rented scratch marks or lingering germs related to salmonella when the last renter used it as a fried chicken coaster. Newness and undefiledness are two wonderful things.

But I certainly don’t want to knock the idea behind rentals. I know people who use Netflix, Red Box, and even go to rental stores. For them, the rental system works. And I totally admire the way rentals are handled now. I used to work for a video store back in the nineties, and I could never be a customer to the nineties again knowing how rentals are handled nowadays. But for me, rentals are wasted. I still have DVDs I bought more than a year ago that have yet to be watched. It’s not that I don’t want to; I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. If I relied on rentals, nothing would ever get watched.

So that’s why I can justify spending $20 on a DVD. I’m not crazy. I’m just time-conscious. And exacting. I prefer new things–not beaten hand-me-downs. I tend to avoid used DVDs, as they run a greater risk of being defective–like rentals. And that’s the way I enjoy movies at home.

Is it perfect? Of course not. While it doesn’t require gas or postage for the second viewing, it does require these things for the first. And if I only watch it once, I’ve wasted fifteen bucks. But one can never know when he’s gonna use a specific DVD, rented or bought, so it’ll always be a gamble. With movies like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, it’s a gamble that pays back tenfold (unless we’re playing with time, in which case I’ve flushed several days of my life down the toilet).

Its value really comes down to a time / cost / quality balance.

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