Is Film Collecting Dead?

Collecting movies has become a thing of the past. At its peak, I was constantly browsing amazon for best deals, box-sets, and obscure horror movies from the 1930’s and 1940’s. But before that, I was a young kid growing up in the 90’s. My grandfather had VHS tapes and 8MM reels all over the house, so I guess you can say that collecting is part of my DNA. Nothing would bring me more pleasure than going through his collection and discovering movies that would interest me (aside from Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and other comedic legends, my grandfather loved musicals starring Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra).

Then DVDs came along, and as VHS tapes faded away, I found myself ready to jump in and start a collection of my own. Of course, in the mid-2000’s, renting DVDs was something that was hugely popular, and I remember spending hours at the local store looking for the next movie that I had to watch. A Clockwork Orange? Check. Minority Report? Check. The Godfather trilogy? Check. I even remember renting DVDs from the university library (Biology 201 needed to wait).

This wasn’t enough. I wanted to own these movies, and this was my plan for the next few years. It started with a Hitchcock box-set on my 19th Birthday and expanded. Cary Grant, James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart films and a lot more followed. In 2009 I watched Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” and fell in love with it. This inspired me to dig deeper into Wood’s collection, which opened the door to films starring Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre and many more.

Film Noir came after that, so did gangster films from the 1930’s and 1940’s, German Expressionism, Italian neorealism, French New Wave, 1950’s Science-Fiction, 80’s movies, and more recently Wes Anderson and Christopher Nolan films. Amazon was the easiest place to find all these movies, but I still enjoyed walking into a DVD store and browsing for hours (I guess you could call this part of the “experience”).

In the summer of 2015, I visited Montreal. Little did I know that it would be the last time I would step foot in an HMV store again. But I made it count by buying as many films as I could afford. But with streaming services already making an impact, DVD and Blu Ray shops like HMV, Virgin Megastore, and Blockbuster videos were slowly fading away, until they almost completely vanished by 2019. Was I still buying movies at the time? Rarely. Criterion had an amazing catalogue of essential films, but they were far too expensive to keep this going. And much like many of you out there, I finally caved in and started streaming movies on Netflix and other services. I still stumble upon shops that sell physical releases, but people are buying less and less.

Why am I writing this? To tell you that I’ve made my peace with it. I’m happy with everything I managed to collect over the years, but it’s time to move on. We’re in the midst of the digital age, and streaming is faster, easier and cheaper than ever before. I still love movies, old and new, and I always enjoy sharing my collection with people who visit me, or the people I meet on social media. Maybe collecting will re-emerge sometime in the future. But for now, it has become a thing of the past.

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