Movie Collection part 3: The Great DVD Purge

In 2005, everything changed.

I finished school: four years of university and an additional year of college. I quickly moved back to my home town and was living in my friend’s basement trying to find a job. Four long months went by with nothing. To say that times were tough is an understatement, but I had supportive parents who kept me afloat. Unfortunately it meant a complete stoppage of luxury items, which included DVDs. The collecting had come to a crashing halt, to which it has never recovered. When I did get a job, I went out looking for a movie to buy, but couldn’t pull the trigger on anything. THE AVIATOR had just come out – a movie I thoroughly enjoyed – but I couldn’t justify the cost. Bills were in the way, including car payments, rent and groceries.

Digital convergence was upon us, but not many people knew what was coming. I modded my (original) Xbox and installed XBMC, which allowed me to stream video and music across the network. It didn’t take long to find a solid process that enabled me to rip all of my DVDs to my hard drive and stream them to my television through the Xbox. I could enjoy the collection in a whole new way, but in an effort to save drive space, everything was stripped away, including any and all special features. Then something bad started to happen. We were already in the habit of renting movies, so now we could rip them and store them on our drives to enjoy later on (although we rarely did). Over the months we amassed hundreds of films (between myself and my friend renting every week). I think we watched a quarter of them, at best. We were obsessed with collecting and sorting, just like with physical DVDs but it was all digital now. The low cost of renting was the ultimate enabler. The DVD collection in my room gathered dust, and became less relevant, especially as we focused on watching movies moreso than caring about special features.

In late 2005, the Xbox 360 came out, and I needed one. I had also heard that a new digital format was coming to support our high definition televisions, and it was coming quickly. I was reminded of the old VHS movies of yesteryear sitting sadly on the shelf, so I decided to get ahead of the curve on this one. I would sell all my DVDs in anticipation of the new format(s). Movies were sorted by gut feeling: a pile of “get rid of” and a pile of “keep.” Over two months I sold 100 DVDs to local stores.

The above image was taken just months before the purge; it doesn’t show the entire collection but much of it is within view. It remains the most complete image of the collection in existence. There is another shelf on the rack at the bottom that is out of frame (the Marshmallow Man was the focus of the image, it seems) as well as a smaller rack on the other side of the room that contained a few more releases, as well as a video game collection. Click on the image for the full picture, which you can then zoom into to see the individual DVDs.

Trading in at Blockbuster was the most lucrative: they would only give you store credit (which I later used to buy video games) but they would give much more for credit than other places would for cash. They were just getting into a fully developed used DVD section and needed to stock their shelves. I came in at just the right time. Often, I would take 30 movies into one store, they would take 20 of them, and I could go across the street to unload the rest. It was clockwork.

Condition wasn’t that important. Neither were little extras, which is one element that bothered me. The GORILLAZ PHASE ONE: CELEBRITY TAKEDOWN set – for instance – was this gorgeous box with extras that included a book and some stickers. I was careful not to use the stickers during the period I owned it, as I wanted the set to be complete, always. The clerk opened it and the loose extras fell to the table. She asked if I wanted to keep the stickers as they wouldn’t add any value to the sale. Dismayed, I quickly thought about selling it on eBay, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. I said no, keep the stickers, and sold the whole thing to them. I could only rest easy in the belief that another collector came upon the set and purchased it without hesitation because of its condition and completeness.

GORILLAZ wasn’t the only DVD I regret selling. PANIC ROOM was a film I loved and is now gone: it was the slim Superbit edition (yes, I was addicted to Superbit for a while). MOBY: PLAY was a fantastic collection of his greatest work and was a prime example of the type of release I wanted from artists. I had a numbered, limited edition of ARMY OF DARKNESS that I let go. I was perhaps a bit foolish to believe that studios would be quick to release high definition copies of some of these movies. Eight years pass and I’m still working without a copy of THE ABYSS, among others.

The Great Purge was going quite well: I was getting an average of $7 for each movie, which is unheard of today. Like I said, people didn’t know what was coming, and I took advantage of it.

With that money, I bought myself an Xbox 360 and a few games, and never looked back. After a few years, I found myself collecting 360 games like I did movies: they were cheap enough, especially the used ones. Financially, it made sense: I could buy Oblivion for $60 and get 120 hours out of it, where I could buy 3 or 4 movies for that price and get a fraction of that time out of them. Everything was broken down into dollar per hour measurements to accommodate the strict entertainment budget I had to put myself on. Movies simply didn’t fit into it, and the final nail was going down the piracy road. I’m not proud of it, but it allowed me to watch movies I wouldn’t normally have done and work within my budget. Unfortunately, it would alter the way I view movies for a long time. No longer did I care about special features, nor editions. I wanted the best quality picture possible, and that was it. The industry certainly didn’t help either, with double and triple dip editions becoming commonplace. I also feel vindicated to some degree because I was (and still am) an avid theatre-goer. In the summers, not a week would go by where I didn’t go see the latest release.

After the dust settled, I had counted 64 DVDs. It would take many years to whittle that number down. These were movies I wanted to own, and would sell them once I replaced them with their high definition counterparts.