The slow and inevitable death of DVD

Physical media slowly losing its charm for the masses

Physical media is slowly becoming considered by the mainstream as obsolete, and next on the list is the DVD. 

There was a time in which the showing of feature films at your local movie theatre was an event of escapism in which you attended the screening, excited to see your favorite star in a new adventure, becoming immersed in the story unfolding by watching in excitement as the plot fell into place; now the bulk of movies are turn-off-your-brain fare starring actors who you only recognize for the superheroes they play in another movie. 

Just like the time of cinematic experience, physical media is following the same road to becoming easy-to-access escapism.

In an activity for a writing class, I bonded with students in a breakout room and answered the teacher’s question: “What movie did you watch most recently?” I was the first to answer: “Yesterday I watched ‘The Big Sleep’, and I thought it was amazing. Don’t let the cover fool you; this is an exciting story full of twists about blackmail, murder and mystery.”

I went on explaining how the story demanded your attention for the best experience. The other students talked about what they saw and none of them had the enthusiasm that I had (to put it mildly). They all said, “I don’t usually watch movies,” and if they watched anything, it was from a streaming service.

What mattered to me did not seem to matter much to the others, and it made me ask, “With the streaming services being in high usage today, what will happen to physical media? Will it simply be discarded as less convenient than accessibility at the push of a button and costs of production, distribution and space?” The answer is: “Yes, and this has been a long time coming.”

I remember when VHS was sold at Walmart way back in 2002 only to be discontinued in 2005 for the next physical projection of movies to be DVD. Then Blu-Ray and other facets of more digital and high-definition projections were released. Netflix became a streaming service and film company releasing its own films instead of a DVD rental and distribution service. 

Now, with many people enjoying staying home and watching newly released films through multiple streaming services, DVD is losing its traction if not having lost it already. 

The other day I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie and thought immediately, “I can’t wait to track this down on DVD,” only for the end of the trailer to explain it would only be released on Blu-Ray and Digital. The people who determine movies released in physical form are us consumers, and we are always looking to make things easier for ourselves, even if it is sitting down to watch a movie.

I have had an affinity for “snap-box” DVDs, special cases designed from cardstock and plastic meant to display the movie it was housing inside and out, though those were discontinued in the early 2000s. This reminds me of how old methods must make way for new ones as the viewer upgrades and film companies set their distributions likewise. 

At the end of the day, movies are just movies—a cheap distraction from life and now becoming more efficient than ever, being accessible on what was once the telephone but is now a minicomputer. Even if that may be the case, the DVD will matter as a formally obsolete but personally treasured tool for projecting favorite stories, and that is good enough for me.

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