I remember the demise of businesses like Blockbuster and Tower Records hitting me harder than they should have. I was a kid growing up in the digital age where I could just watch a movie online instantly, instead of driving down to a brick and mortar store to buy the DVD. So why did I care so much that these places were disappearing? Why did it matter so much to me that DVDs, Blu-Rays and CDs were fading away, to be replaced by digital files and streaming?
I still have no idea really. There is just something unexplainable about the enjoyment felt from having a tangible, physical version of the movie or album instead of it just sitting as a file on a computer. It definitely doesn’t have to do with quality. The physical version of a movie is in no way better quality than its file counterpart on iTunes.
What I’ve started to notice since coming to college and having to move my personal belongings around from place to place is that it might be an ownership thing. The movies that I buy are ones that I love with a passion, and the physical copies of them I own have memories tied to them. It’s my DVD of Eraserhead that has scratch marks on it because my best friend’s dog tried to eat it. It’s my copy of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? that still has a giant crack in the box from when I accidentally hit it with a hammer. It’s my copy of The Night of the Hunter that I gave to a close friend who I know I’ll probably never see again. A file on a computer does not carry that same feeling.
Even though I wouldn’t say physical media has been making any sort of comeback, it is nice to see that it hasn’t disappeared nearly as quickly as I thought it would. A big part of this seems to be the return in popularity of vinyl records. More and more artists are releasing their music on vinyl, and more and more stores are stocking them. On the movie side, groups like Criterion are still releasing beautifully packaged Blu-Rays and DVDs, and seem to singlehandedly be keeping the niche market alive (although Criterion’s recent announcement of partnering with Turner Classic Movies to create a streaming service is not the most comforting news to hear). There are also still places to go for physical media, like Amoeba and to a much lesser extent places, like Best Buy and Target.
Considering the decline in sales of CDs, Blu-Rays and DVDs, I am clearly in the minority in feeling this way. I have heard plenty of people champion physical media when it comes to books over eBooks, which I fully understand because they are each fundamentally different in how you read the book. But whether you are watching a Blu-Ray or watching a movie on Netflix, you are still watching them in the same way, on a TV screen. I’m still not positive why I have this almost irrational interest in tangible, physical media over online, but it’s something that I have, for some reason, always loved.