How the format war has changed my purchasing habits.

To be succinct, I simply don’t (and won’t) buy as much as I did before. For the past few years I didn’t think too hard about buying the week’s more popular DVD release of the latest blockbuster (or near blockbuster). This is why my DVD collection sprang to over 400 titles! I didn’t always buy full retail on “new release Tuesday” if I found bargains of popular movies that had been on DVD for a few months already and retailers were anxious to thin their inventory, but the collection grew and represents quite a sizable chunk of change.

Last year I scaled back my DVD purchases considerably (like many others apparently) in part because of a dearth of titles that I wanted to archive into my collection, but more importantly I didn’t want to buy a movie I really liked on DVD only to be faced with the likelihood of buying it again on the winning HD disc format. So, I sat on the fence and kept my money in my pocket.

Now we have a winner in the HD disc format war which I happened to have bought into just before the scales tipped and wound up in the winning camp. Yet, now that all this is settled and the available Blu-Ray movie library is growing with all the new studio support, I’m not running into the store with my wallet full of cash eager to replace my DVD movie collection with any and all Blu-Ray versions.

My new MASSIVE Blu-Ray movie collection.

First of all, the PS3 is a very good DVD upscaler and watching DVDs on the PS3 look better than my original standard DVD player. Second, Blu-Ray discs are, on average, about 75% more expensive than the DVD counterpart, however waiting a few weeks or months will see their price drop to around $15 much like regular DVDs that invariably fall into the $9.99 bin after their spotlight fades. Third, as much as I like my movies I don’t re-watch them enough to warrant the expense of such a huge collection. Fourth, some of the movies I have bought on DVD really show their age when re-watched a few years later. I remember watching Lethal Weapon again not too long ago (the first one, the one with Gary Busey before he went insane) and was distracted by the suitcase-sized Motorola mobile phone (remember those? Analog. Corded. Gigantic. Required a small generator to operate…) that Danny Glover used in one scene to make a call. Oof! That just ruined the mood.

Therefore, this recent high definition disc format war (and memories of that ginormous mobile phone) has forced me to suspend my DVD-a-week habit, make me to take a good look at how I enjoy my hobby and left me with a criteria these new movies will have to meet before I buy them:

  • Affordable – These disc are going from $30 new to $15 or $10 in a few weeks or a couple months (depending on popularity), so why buy new? This is for my video library, right?
  • Very Good to Great – No more mediocre movies cluttering up my shelves and draining my wallet. If it doesn’t rock the house as a really good flick (as a minimum) then it’s not on my “buy” list.
  • Longevity – Some movies are really good now, but really blow a few years down the road. Lethal Weapon is a case in point, the first couple of Batman movies also seemed good at the time, now pale in comparison to a really well written and acted Batman Begins. This will be a tough one.
  • Re-playability – Much like video games I buy, I will need to see just how much I will want to see it again or if the message/story of the film is worth repeating.

A lot of the movies that will typically fall into my categories will be Science Fiction, Fantasy or period pieces. I do enjoy watching a movie in HD on my home theater, but now only the better ones will be making it onto my shelf. While some are adamant that digital downloads are just around the corner to make any disc format obsolete, I believe that the service providers will deploy their broadband networks so slowly and poorly that HD on optical discs will be around for quite some time to come – and I seem to be in good company.

For the movies I don’t buy? There’s always my Netflix queue.

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