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Hold Onto Your Favourite Films

A reminder to hold onto your DVD's in the tumultuous times of streaming.


By Andrew Cardno

Stack of DVD's and Blu-Rays
Photo Courtesy of Andrew Cardno (Yes, these are some of my DVD's)

It has never been more important to own one of your favourite movies. In recent years, especially during the hard times that have been dealt to the entertainment industry following the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic – we have seen many streaming services take down much of their content, in an effort to save money. This has led to some people’s favourite movies and shows that were only accessible via these platforms disappearing entirely. This is a harsh reality for the creators and enjoyers of these shows and has demonstrated the cracks that can form under the current streaming model that permeates much of our media consumption. Fan favourite shows such as Cartoon Network’s Infinity Train, Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone, and HBO’s WESTWORLD have all disappeared from their respective platforms angering fans across the globe. However, it is not just the shows that were made explicitly for streaming platforms that have disappeared. A cult-classic among many, Danny Boyles’ 2002 zombie flick 28 Days Later, which functioned as one of the breakout roles for Cillian Murphy has also been buried during the reign of streaming services. It is now almost impossible to find the film on many of the major streaming services. Thus begs the question; how safe are our most cherished films?


Disney is no stranger to changing movies on their streaming platform, as they recently edited William Freidkin’s The French Connection to remove a racial slur. Whilst I respect the intent behind it, and it is still unclear where the decision to edit this scene came from, the editing out of that scene changes a lot for the character – and there is no doubt in my mind that Freidkin knew that it would change our perception of the character for the worse once he uttered that word. Regardless, if you want to see the film as the director intended and as a product of its time – you can still buy the Blu-Ray with Fredkin’s vision intact. Disney have also recently stopped Blu-Ray production in Australia, which could be a test run for a streaming only model. Many of the shows streaming on Disney plus are seeing little to no physical releases. But the media giant that is the mouse seems to see a future in releasing specific shows on Blu-Ray and 4K; The Mandalorian and a group of their MCU shows will be getting physical releases, which is a step in the right direction – however, we are yet to see if shows that might not bring as much cash flow as Star Wars and the MCU will be getting a release anytime soon. Which is a shame, as FX’s smash-hit comedy/drama The Bear is a show that deserves a physical release – and hopefully if the physical copies that Disney are pushing out perform well, more of their exclusive shows will get a home release.


Physical media is the best way to watch a lot of movies, and if this movie is one of your favorites - would you not want to watch in the clearest possible format? In a recent interview with French YouTube channel Konbini, Christopher Nolan, director of films such as The Dark Knight Trilogy, and the critically acclaimed Oppenheimer, expressed his love for physical media and why the home releases are superior to that of streaming:


“There’s much less compression, there’s a very specific author, and we can control color, picture, brightness, and all these things.”
chani from Dune
Photo courtesy of Primary_Peach_9820 on the r/4kbluray sub-reddit




Both Blu-Ray and 4K Blu-Ray have an advantage in picture quality over streaming. The bog standard 1080p Blu-Ray will still look much better than streaming the film on Netflix with a 4K TV. This is because Blu–Ray typically has a much higher bitrate than streaming, which allows for a wider range

of colours, more detail in shadows and highlights and less visible compression – which results in pixelation and blurring. Given that many of the modern game consoles, and even some older ones – dating all the way back to Sony’s PS3 can support and play Blu-Ray there are still many ways to watch them even if you don’t have a dedicated Blu-Ray player. Sony’s PS5 and XBOX’s One series of consoles can all support and play 4K Ultra HD disc’s (which made me happy, when I finally got my hands on a PS5).


In recent years I have once again started to build my collection of DVD, Blu-Ray, and 4K Discs, usually reserving the 4K editions for films that are some of my all-time favourites. This recent wave of the 4K Blu-Ray has led to many classics getting a 4K remaster - and some very cool collectors editions. One of the companies behind such products is Arrow Video, who focus on Blu-Ray and 4K releases of many cult, classic and horror movies – with upcoming 4K remasters of the Hellraiser Franchise and Tremors 2: Aftershock. These collectors’ editions not only allow you to own one of your favourite films in stunning 4K quality, but they also come in a collector’s box which has some amazing artwork, and in many of Arrows recent releases have options for which artwork you would prefer – such as, the Chatterer (my favourite cenobite from the Hellraiser films) slipcase for their Hellraiser: Quarter of Torment release. The Re-Releases of these films have also added a bunch of new special features, such as documentaries about the films, archival footage, interviews, and much more. Special features are something near and dear to my heart, and it is a shame that we have lost this with modern DVD releases. If it were not for the special features on The Dark Knight DVD that I begged my mum to buy me back in 2010 – I do not think I would have considered a career in film. Something about watching Christopher Nolan flip a semi-truck just spoke to me.


I luckily had the chance to speak to the senior producer at Arrow Video – Michael Mackenzie and ask him some questions about physical media.

Arrow video logo
Arrow Video Logo courtesy of Arrow Video

What do you think makes physical media so important?

M: By its very nature, the content on streaming platforms is transitory in nature, and viewers are at the whim of the platform in question when it comes to how long a particular film or TV show will be available there, and in what form. It’s the “here today, gone tomorrow” mentality that, in my view, makes streaming more like watching live TV than the VHS and DVD collections of the past.

There’s also the question of the overall package you’re getting. Most of the streaming platforms don’t offer anything beyond the movie itself – and even among the handful of exceptions that DO provide bonus materials, good luck finding that all-important director’s commentary, behind-the-scenes gallery or copy of the original first draft screenplay that’s on your DVD or Blu-ray!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, there’s the question of quality. While some streaming platforms offer better imag


e quality than others, all of them pale in comparison to the standard provided by a well-encoded Blu-ray or 4K UHD. I find this to be particularly true of anything shot on film (in other words, virtually every movie released before 2013 and a good number of those released since then), where the fine grain structure tends to choke the encoding software, turning everything into digital soup.


What are your opinions on streaming and how the companies that own the rights to these movies feel they have the right to alter them? E.g., William Fredkin’s The French Connection being altered by Disney?

M: Ultimately, and as much as we might wish it were otherwise, the reality is that these films are owned by corporations, not artists. As such, they can do what they like, and the consumer has no recourse.


Do you know that 28 Days Later, due to licensing issues has completely disappeared from legal streaming sites – and that the only way to watch it now is via illegal sites or DVD? If so, what are your thoughts on that, do you think it’s good for the physical industry that there is now a film only accessible via that format?

M: I think it’s a mixed bag, personally. I’m tempted to chalk this up as a win for physical media, but the reality is that, for a significant number of people, streaming is the only platform they’re willing to consider. For better or worse, streaming has encouraged an expectation that everything is just a couple of clicks away, to the extent that many people now regard the act of having to order up a physical disc (and not even have to go out to the high street and buy it in person, thanks to the internet!) to be an unacceptable inconvenience.


What goes into designing these collections and how do you gear them towards people who are hardcore fans of these films.

M: It depends on several factors – such as time, budget, what the licensor will allow us to do, whether the director is involved, whether we’re restoring a film from scratch or using a pre-existing master, the availability of any cast and crew. Ultimately, though, our goal is always to produce the best possible version we can within the constraints afforded to us. We all do this job because we love film and physical media, so whether our plans for a particular release are something that gets US excited is usually the best yardstick for how customers will respond.


Do you think physical is in a safe place? Disney have also stopped distributing physical copies of their films in Australia – ending with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.

M: I think it depends on the films in question. For the boutique labels like Arrow, Eureka, Indicator, Criterion and so on, I think the future is fairly rosy as they’re catering to more of a hardcore crowd who WANT to own the best possible physical editions of their films and will often buy titles, they wouldn’t necessarily have considered otherwise purely based on the pedigree of the label putting them out.

The films that are in the worst situation are the ones that are produced by and/or debut on streaming platforms, which almost never get a physical release, meaning that, if the platform in question chooses to remove them from circulation, they may as well never have existed (outside of extra-legal sources).

I think the best hope going forward is for the major studios to sublicence their content to the boutique labels – something that already happens with their catalogue titles, but less often with their newer releases. For instance, while my bread and butter tends to be Italian cult cinema, which is where my “expertise” (if you can call it that) lies, I’ve also produced releases of films that are household names, such as Donnie Darko, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Flatliners.


What are some of your favourite physical releases of films – either that Arrow has done, or that you personally own?

M: Of the titles I’ve worked on at Arrow, I have a particular soft spot for Dario Argento’s Phenomena. The 2017 Blu-ray limited edition was one of the first releases I worked on and was a real labour of love, which involved me manually assembling three different cuts of the film and also creating an entirely new “hybrid” soundtrack for the longest version. I’m really proud to say that I’ve had the opportunity to work on releases of some of my all-time favourite films, including Deep Red, The Day of the Jackal, Children of Men and Don’t Torture a Duckling. More recently, I oversaw Arrow’s release of The Lighthouse, on which I got to work with director Robert Eggers, who was an absolute

delight.


One of the best ways to procure DVD’s nowadays is your local charity shop, so if there are some

bunch of DVD's
photo courtesy of @OxfamParliament on Twitter/X

favourites that you want to seek out – especially older movies that recent releases, such as the Disney Star Wars boxset (which pales in comparison to the theatrical cut DVD’s) which have done a disservice to the film, changing iconic scenes. In most charity shops you can get 5 DVD’s for as little as a pound – so have a look around and try and source some of your old favourites to keep by your side, in case these companies decide to delete them from streaming forever. A few shops that I frequent are Cancer Research by the beach in Aberdeen, and the PDSA on Holburn Street. However, if there is a cool collector’s edition picking that up will help to support businesses that are still producing some of your favourites physically and you will get a cool edition – packed to the brim with content based around your favourite film.


There is an amazing recent example of physical medias resurgence can be found in the booming popularity of vinyl records. Vinyl is something that was thought to be dead and buried, and upon my research into the vinyl community I found that it is nearly the exact same as the Blu-Ray/4K community. There is an allure to holding something in your hands, growing your physical collection, and having the best sound quality for your favourite records. Which are the exact same reasons that people collect DVD/Blu-Ray/4K releases. While vinyl has made a huge comeback – 41 million vinyl records were sold in 2022, accumulating to a total of 1.2 billion dollars. This is great for physical media – and hopefully soon we can see the same resurgence for film, and with the current state of Netflix and other streaming services – this could be a possibility.


Film is something that binds people together, and I can’t count how many times I’ve been gifted or exchanged a DVD with someone – but that’s part of the magic of physical releases. It’s yours. It does not belong to a company who can do what they want with it, Whether that be changing it or taking it away from you all together. Once you own a movie, it’s yours for as long as you want it – you can watch it as many times as you like in the best format possible, you can give it to a friend and tell them to check it out, you can put it on display next to some of your other favourites, do what you want with it.

It all starts with owning it, physically.



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