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Friday, June 22, 2007

B.N. (Before Netflix)

I'm still a very satisfied Netflix subscriber, but I can't help noticing something: my personal DVD collection has not grown that much since I signed up for the service. Is this necessarily bad? Nope. I think it's a relief.

I own a few movies on DVD that are far from favorites of mine. I don't own any movies I absolutely detest, but given the choice of watching American Splendor or Manhunter, American Splendor wins out. I'm not saying Manhunter is a bad film, but the reason why I own it is because there was no way of renting it when I got it. As a fan of the Hannibal Lector films, I wanted to see this different vision made a few years before Silence of the Lambs was made. I had never seen the movie, but heard good things about it. The risk was worth taking.

When I was in college and when I first moved to Dallas, the only options with renting were Blockbuster, Blockbuster and . . . Blockbuster. I never knew the existence of a place like Premiere Video in the SMU area. Besides, I would have never considered driving all the way from Fort Worth or even north Dallas just to rent a movie. So, with at least two Blockbusters within ten minutes of where I lived, I'd look and see what all I could choose from. More often than not, I found oodles of copies of a Ben Stiller vehicle ("Guaranteed to Be There!") while I found classics like The Apartment and Double Indemnity only available in crappy, pan-and-scan VHS. And I didn't even bother looking that far into their music section for concert videos or the like.

In other words, there was a tremendous void. This was right as the DVD market exploded and the VHS section was quickly shrinking year after year. Still, the selection of movies I wanted to watch went down to nil. At the time I considered going to Netflix, I realized I couldn't rent The Ben Stiller Show or the BBC version of The Office from Blockbuster. That was 2004 and I haven't stepped into a Blockbuster store ever since.

I don't mean to slag Blockbuster here. My tastes are simply different from what they carry en masse. I don't want to see A Night at the Museum; I want to watch Maxed Out. I don't want to watch another direct-to-rental American Pie spinoff; I want to watch The Last Picture Show. I'm firmly aware that I am not the target demographic here and that's OK.

For my budget, I'm glad that the cost of risk with renting a DVD from Netflix is much lower than buying it on a whim. I don't regret buying movies like The Player or The Hidden Fortress on DVD (my then Best Buy employee discount also had a lot to do with this), but ever since 2004, the DVDs I want to own are the ones that I truly love and want to watch over and over again.

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