Are movies on disc dead?
During the Great Format Wars of 2007, some Outsiders kept their distance from the fray by declaring all physical media a lost cause. In spite of their valiant efforts, Blu-ray Disc sales have grown considerably, and the format is picking up the slack where DVD has left.
But the rag-tag bunch of insurgents would not give up, and now Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, HBO Go and other mercenaries have kept their fight up and streaming video has become ubiquitous. Netflix instant-only subscribers far outnumber disc-only subscribers.
Given all that, nothing comes close to the director’s original intention of a cinematic experience like Blu-ray Disc does. Academy Award-winning director Ridley Scott even wrote an article for the Huffington Post arguing this point:
Blu-ray disc, of which I’ve been a supporter since its inception, is the closest we’ve come to replicating the best theatrical viewing experience I’ve ever seen. It allows us to present in a person’s living room films in their original form with proper colors, aspect ratio, sound quality, and, perhaps most importantly, startling clarity.
The problem with an argument like this is that it is directed at the geeks like me who care about quality over convenience. The people who have massive screens at home who can really make use of the higher definition video, and powerful speaker setups capable of delivering the audiophile-quality Blu-ray Disc provides.
The mass market consumer buys eggs at Walmart because it’s more convenient. They order clothes on Amazon without ever trying it on to avoid going to the store. And for years have complained about DVDs presented in their original theatrical aspect ratio, which lead to the horrific pan-and-scan copies that lopped off the sides of the picture.
Even more damning, the younger generation are watching more video on portable 3″ screens than on larger televisions or computer screens. At that size, high-definition really doesn’t matter.
Ridley Scott argues that, “Technology will need to make many more huge leaps before one can ever view films with the level of picture and sound quality many film lovers demand without having to slide a disc into a player, especially with the technical requirements of today’s 3D movies.” The important part of that sentence is “film lovers.” There are film lovers, and then there are casual film consumers. There is the guy who watched The Tree of Life four times in his local indie theater, and then the girl who stayed up all night to watch the latest Twilight regurgitation.
Personally, I spend more time streaming video from Netflix on my computer than I do in front of my TV with a Blu-ray Disc. This is borne out of practically though, as I can’t really blast my surround sound system while my kids are asleep. What I prefer is the high-definition quality and emotional impact of Blu-ray Disc, but what the reality I’ve come to is compromise happens where the rubber meets the road.
And in the end, I feel like going out to the Imax last weekend to see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was the best compromise of all. Big screen. Big sound. Kids at home asleep.