For the last decade and a half, I’ve been a passionate Blu-ray collector. My constantly swelling collection of plastic blue cases has been my pride and joy, and over the years I’ve spent a frankly silly amount of money growing it further.
When the so-called “digital revolution” really started to take hold in the mid-2010s, and physical media sales took a nosedive as streaming and digital purchases began to dominate, I stubbornly clung to my ways. I point-blank refused to buy any movie digitally for several years and instead opted to stick with physical.
However, as we enter 2022, something has changed. I’m suddenly feeling a strange urge to join the masses and shirk physical media purchases in favor of buying my favorite movies on a digital storefront (many of which are available on the best streaming devices) instead.
In a move that I would have thought unthinkable just a couple of years ago, this week I decided to cancel my pre-order of an upcoming Blu-ray and have decided to purchase the film digitally instead (Belfast, if you were wondering). Let me explain why my Blu-ray collecting days might be coming to an end.
Can’t put a price on convenience
Like most people, the biggest thing that has recently drawn me to digital purchasing is the convenience factor. I’ve recently moved to a new place, which meant I was faced with the task of lugging my entire Blu-ray collection across the country and then finding a place to actually store it. That’s headache would have been completely avoided if I instead had a digital collection.
Furthermore, I don’t currently have a Blu-ray player hooked up to the television in my bedroom, which means if I want to watch anything from my collection I’m restricted to the main TV in the living room. Once again, that’s not a problem with a digital movie as you can access it on just about any device capable of connecting to the internet.
I also recently learned the upside of buying digital, I recently purchased a digital copy of the cinematic adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen for my partner, and I was able to share the film with a family member who lives hundreds of miles away instantly. If I’d opted for the Blu-ray, that wouldn’t have been possible. Not without shipping the disc to them.
When the price is right
In the past, I’ve had no qualms about spending big on my Blu-ray collection. I’ve even spent more money to get a first-run printing that came with a cardboard slipcover over a cheaper second printing that came just in a plastic box.
Even so, I wouldn’t call myself an irresponsible spender and even I cannot deny the savings you get with digital media. Unlike in the video game industry, where digital games often cost more than their physical counterparts, digital movies are typically cheaper than buying a DVD/Blu-ray.
Let’s take for example the recent release of sci-fi epic Dune. On Amazon, the 4K Blu-ray of the film costs $29, while the regular Blu-ray costs $24, yet buying the film digitally costs $19. This price discrepancy is very standard, this single example is by no means an exception.
For obvious reasons, if you want an actual physical product you’re going to have to cough up more money, but when you couple the cheaper price-point with the convenience advantage discussed above, the appeal of digital starts to become harder to deny.
Friendship (almost) ended with physical media, now digital media is my best friend
Unfortunately, I'm not able to be cut and dry with this. It's not like I don't see the value in physical media. The argument that you actually own a Blu-ray compared to ostensibly permanently renting a digital purchase (remember when Amazon erased 1984 from Kindles?) remains a compelling one. After all, with a digital purchase, you are wholly dependent on the platform you purchased from giving you continual access to that product in perpetuity.
Let’s not also forget that Blu-ray discs often come loaded with special features and digital purchases are typically no-frills in that regard. Plus, the quality when watching a film digitally can fluctuate based on your internet connection. On a Blu-ray, you're getting a rock-solid resolution every time.
If only, I think, we in the U.K. had Movies Anywhere, the U.S. service that made it fairly common for Blu-ray purchases to also include a digital code. As my editor tells me, this gives you the best of both worlds. Although, that practice is unfortunately significantly rarer over here in the U.K. and most Blu-rays come with solely a disc copy.
So while I'll primarily buy digital copies (so my physical collection doesn't get too large), I'm not throwing out my egregiously large Blu-ray collection. Heck, even I'll admit I'm considering buying Dune on Blu-ray (for display purposes alone).
But if the tides are finally turning with Blu-ray holdouts such as myself, I wonder how much longer physical media will continue to have a place in the market.
In other media news, Roku's new plan fights Netflix right where they're strongest.