The Metaphysics of Movie Ownership

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by vrDrew, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. vrDrew macrumors 65816

    Jan 31, 2010
    Midlife, Midwest
    A Practical Discussion Part I

    This past Thanksgiving, I visited a local Best Buy store for their "Black Friday" midnight sale along with an acquaintance. My friend ended up buying a half dozen or so DVD movies, and it so happened that a few days later we ended up watching one of his purchases: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

    As it turned out the movie was, shall we say, disappointing. Somewhat leaden dialog, a preposterous plot, and hammy acting by otherwise accomplished actors. The special-effects were good - but not good enough to overcome the sad reality that neither of us expect to ever watch it again.

    As I looked around my friend's living room, with its array of bookshelves, media armoires and coffee tables laden with dust-covered DVD jewel cases, I pondered some on the question as to why we actually want to "own" a copy of a movie. And, if we decide that we do, then what is the best way to do so?

    First, let me state my opinion that there are very few movies that are actually worth watching more than once or twice: Gone with the Wind. Godfather I & II. Animal House. The Wizard of Oz. Lawrence of Arabia. Doctor Zhivago. Star Wars Episodes I & II. Your list may differ - but I suspect very few people could legitimately name more than say a couple of dozen movies that really are worthy of watching more than once per decade.

    We live in an age of great technological change. With my own eyes I have seen the progression from Super8 and 16mm reel projectors, through Betamaxes, VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-Ray, and now digital downloads from Apple, Amazon and Netflix. I could, had I wanted to, have purchased a copy of The Sting or Jaws on no less than seven different formats.

    Think now of the logistical considerations of owning a movie in physical form. I've helped more than one friend move their movie collections through changes of address and through divorce. Each of which entailed dozens of cardboard boxes, and wrenching emotional decisions as to rights of ownership and primacy of custody. I know several people who have spent thousands of dollars buying shelving and drawer units simply to store their media collections.

    And for what? I ask myself. Because a physical copy of a movie is a depreciating asset. A DVD copy of Fast Times at Richmont High is never going to be worth as much as the day it was bought. And its value rapidly approaches zero as soon as a High-Defintion version, with directors commentary, becomes available on Blu-Ray. Which is all but inevitably going to be supplanted by some as-yet un-named format. Bottom line: Owning Movies is a losing game.

    Many of us in this forum spend untold hours, and considerable financial resources, ripping and encoding their DVD collections to store them on our home media server or NAS devices. A seemingly worthwhile goal.

    But look closer at this task. While storing your movies on inexpensive hard drives at least temporarily removes the physical storage space issue (Or at least transfers the load from the living room to the attic or basement. How many of us actually dispose of the source DVD?) it certainly doesn't remove any of the other burdens of ownership. We still have to archive our collections, buying still more hard-drives and NAS to do so. And paying for the electricity to keep their discs spinning and their LEDs glowing.

    Does it not seem, as we absorb and consider the full implications of iOS 5 and the advent of iCloud, that the days of owning a physical copy of a movie or TV are coming to an end? And that, even for those of us who buy only a digital download copy of a favorite movie or TV show, that its probably better to let it live only on the Cloud?

    To be continued...
  2. adbe macrumors 6502a

    Jul 11, 2008
    Short answer: four year old girls.

    I own about half of the Disney library, and most of Pixar to boot. I'm happy to have spent the money.
  3. mstrze macrumors 68000

    Nov 6, 2009
    Well, before 1976 or thereabouts, only the super-rich could afford to 'own' a movie. It would have been on the actual reels and have to be played in a literal home theater which would included a an actual projector and a screen.

    I would say that videotape made it reasonable for people to start collecting movies, and the cost of physical, ownable, high-quality movies from the studios dropped from 70-90 bucks a pop to under $20 right around the time Beverly Hills Cop was released on VHS/Beta back in 1984 or so. It came out at $14.99 and sold amazingly well and the home ownership of movies took off as every studio slashed their prices in turn. Columbia House and other 'movie' clubs only made it cheaper to own (6 movies for a buck?!?!). DVD releases in the late 90s made it even more enticing, owning a perfect, non-degradable, random-access copy....then Blu Ray and digital downloads..etc.

    Why do people do it? Humans are generally hoarders at heart. We have a strong desire to own things and show off to friends and peers just how much we own. Heck, Apple knows this. It's part of the reasons why the original iTunes model of song ownership was so much more successful than those services that would allow you access to hundreds of thousands of songs for a monthly fee. Once you stopped paying, the songs were no longer accessible to you.

    We need to own these items to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. There's no way around it. I have gotten to a point in my life where that is no longer a major goal, so I have been tossing/selling anything without sentimental value. Home movies, or actual shows (theater and TV) that I have appeared on, I keep...other stuff can be rented or streamed of found on YouTube.

    I share your opinion OP...I think...thought I haven't read your 'continued portion. ;)
  4. MovieCutter macrumors 68040


    May 3, 2005
    Washington, DC

    Your argument is now invalid...:cool:

    That being said, I own over 800 movies and 50 TV series. I consider myself a digital hoarder. Buy-rip-store. And yes, it is because I enjoy showing off my collection. I have a large home theater with a huge projection screen, and my friends and I LOVE scrolling through the movie posters on Plex.
  5. Darth.Titan macrumors 68030


    Oct 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I imagine the OP actually meant Episodes IV and V. They probably don't consider the prequels worth mentioning.
  6. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    I'm hoping he meant "A New Hope" and "Empire."

    That said, the only way I think the cloud infrastructure could really work as a permanent solution is that whatever content you store on it has some sort of guarantee to go with it. Think FDIC where it comes to banking.

    The problem with all of these cloud services is what kind of assurance do you have that your content will be protected should the service ever cease to exist or changes its business model?

    Aside from that, you're completely at the mercy of your internet provider as well as the cloud provider.

    The allure of having a physical copy is that you don't have to worry about any of this. You just need to make sure you have power to run your equipment.

    So while I certainly see the demise of physical media, I think it will be an extremely slow death. And it won't truly be gone until some of these issues are addressed.
  7. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008

    The problem for me, and possibly others, is that currently one cannot depend on the cloud to allow you to watch a movie when you want to watch it.

    I'm not talking about streaming/buffering delays, I'm talking about the ever-changing landscape of what is available on iTunes/Netflix/Amazon/etc. You simply cannot invite some folks over for dinner and a movie and know that your choice of movie will be available. All the services are at the whim of the content providers who withdraw movies from circulation for their own reasons.

    What makes this even more frustrating is that many of the movies you might want to buy (to avoid the above problem) are only available to rent - or you can buy the SD version online for more than it would cost to buy the DVD, delivered. Adding salt to the wound is the rental prices are 2x to 4x what it costs to rent locally. The day my little shopping center down the street gets a RedBox is the day my online rental spending drops to $0.

    The online marketplace has come a long way. It has a long way to go.

  8. idunn macrumors 6502

    Jan 12, 2008
    Favorites forever

    An interesting proposition. Although in the end surely a personal decision seeing a wide variety of individual needs and preferences.

    Ideally having everything in the cloud would be, well, ideal. Services such as Hulu, or Amazon Video on Demand, where one can own something sans commercials, can work quite well. But the reality of that becomes abruptly obvious as soon as one loses the internet connection for some reason. Or, for that matter, does not have sufficient broadband to stream in HD, etc. It also amply highlights what remains a possibility with Amazon or any other provider, that in some act of God or otherwise possibly disappear. So if relying upon that, one should ultimately be as prepared to see their entire online library disappear in a nanosecond. Not likely, maybe, but one is playing the odds nevertheless. Or, more likely, the company may decide to change their business model into something you no longer like, but to the extent one has purchased content they do not wish to lose, beholden.

    Some of these vast personal media libraries are surely little more than collecting.* But it is still interesting how much more pleasant a digital menu and instant access is than the proposition of going to all the trouble of finding a disc and slipping it into a slot (theoretically being nothing). But there you are. So aside from collecting, it would make sense that one would wish to digitize their media, despite the pain of doing so. In a metaphysical sense I'll allow that with some of these movies one may actually spend more time transcoding them then ever in a lifetime actually watching.

    Thus back to the issue of personal taste. Some people are never going to care, with others at opposite end of the spectrum digitizing everything in sight just on principal. Somewhere between those who never care to watch any movie more than once, and the four year-old who might literally wear out a single DVD, are the rest of us.

    Each will have their favorites, and nice to think it will always be easily at hand.

    * Not to mention 1080p resolution being surpassed in future.​
  9. slothrob macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2007
    I'm a bit of a collector/hoarder by nature and genetics, but I try to be selective by collecting only things that I know I'll (at least want to) watch every year or so or things that I have an deep affection for but I may never have another chance to see again. I also look for and buy things, when I see them for a reasonable price, that I think me and my wife or daughter might enjoy watching together, since it can be hard to find anything worthwhile when you actually find the time to watch.

    That being beside the point, my actual time contribution to transcoding is 5, maybe 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the transcoding process (and serving iTunes) allows me to get use out of my expensive computer investment when it would normally just be sitting around collecting dust.
  10. vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jan 31, 2010
    Midlife, Midwest
    The Metaphysics of Movie Ownership

    Part II Why we shouldn't own movies

    The period from 1968 through 1973 was a true Golden Age of American Cinema. Movies like Bonnie & Clyde; 2001 A Space Odyssey; Patton; Midnight Cowboy; Chinatown and dozens more, marked a unique period in film history. A time when young, film-school educated directors like Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola redefined character, dialog, pacing, and plot. Yet one person who almost certainly didn't get to see any of these gems - despite having immense personal resources, and having a personal history in the film business - was Howard Hughes. According to most accounts, he spent his last years endlessly watching a looped copy of Ice Station Zebra - a somewhat dull, stupid, and plodding Cold War rehash of an Alistair MacLean novel. Lesson: Sometimes simply having a movie isn't a very good reason to watch it.

    OK: I'm not going to suggest that having your own movie collection is going to turn you into a drug-addled hermit, bagging your own urine and growing out your fingernails. But I do think its worth thinking about the limiting effects of owning a copy of a movie.

    When I think back over the past year, and the absolute best movies I seen, they almost all were films I'd never heard about. Two movies about French gangster Jacques Mesrine (Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Public Enemy #1). Sophie Scholl The Final Days. Water Drops on Burning Rocks. All foreign movies (subtitled) - but also all movies I would never have picked out of a DVD bin at Best Buy.

    The reason, of course, is Netflix. Because Netflix a) is streaming and b) lets you watch a movie at essentially zero marginal cost - it encourages experimentation. Sure, I've found a couple dozen movies I loved. But I also have given up on a couple after the first few minutes. No loss.

    I've also rented a few movies through iTunes. Black Swan (with Natalie Portman) and The Mechanic, with Jason Statham stand out in my mind. One pretty good, the other a little disappointing. Both were movies I hadn't seen in theaters, but my girlfriend and I made a "date night" out of seeing a first-run movie. I'm glad I watched them, and I don't begrudge the $5 I paid to rent them. But I wouldn't want to watch either of them again.

    I compare my experience to that of my Mom, with her shelves full of VHS and DVD boxes. Come Christmas, I'm certain she's going to drag Zulu or Gone With Wind out, saying as she does "You know you like this film."

    True. But I've seen them both before.

    Each year Hollywood alone puts out 500 or so mainstream movies. Europe and Asia (especially India) release literally thousands more. Maybe most of them aren't much good. But certainly some of them are absolutely fantastic. The thing is, you'll never get the chance to find out if you keep stocking your shelves, and loading up your DVD players and NAS drives, with copies of Porky's II The Next Day and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

    Having a movie collection is a bit like owning a vacation home or a week at a resort timeshare. Nice enough - but after a while you begin to feel obligated to spend your vacations there, and you never get the chance to go someplace new. Life is short. Too short to keep watching the same movie over and over.

    Don't be Howard Hughes. Or Howard the Duck.

    PS: Thanks to everyone who commented in this thread, you've brought up some interesting points of view, things I hadn't completely considered. I mean in no way to mock, disparage, or belittle anyone who has a movie collection (large or small.) My intention is only to encourage thought and discussion on the topic of enjoying video entertainment on our a/v systems in general, and AppleTV in particular. Peace.
  11. ravenvii macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    I agree; that's why I went from a (modest) collection of DVDs consisting of approximately two mid-sized shelves to not owning one DVD.

    I now own no movies at all. If I want to watch a movie, I put it on my Netflix queue. Simple.
  12. damir00 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 30, 2011
    It's a good question, really. Went through a "collecting" phase on movies - got to a couple of Terabytes worth - and then decided it just wasn't worth the bother. Have added maybe 2 movies in the past 6 months to the (digital) library.

    Netflix and $5 HD rentals and the occassional $10 discount BluRay purchase are, frankly, good enough.

    There is something different about music...I'm not giving up my tunage...but movies/tv shows? Not that big a least for me...
  13. winterlocked macrumors member

    Mar 19, 2010
    What a great thread. Oddly, I find that if I have a movie saved on my appletv, I'm actually less likely to watch it.

    I found that every time an old James bond movie was on tv on a lazy Sunday, id plop down and watch it, so I bought and ripped the collection, thinking "every sunday is going to be amazing now!"

    ...But I never watch them. However, if one's showing on tv when im flipping around, I'll still stop and watch it there.

    I think there's something about the sponenaeity or surprise. Like hearing a song you like On the radio and turning it up, even though "blaze of glory" has also been living on your iPod for five years and you never listen to it there.
  14. bocomo macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    New York
    Very interesting thread

    While i don't agree with everything the op said, i do find myself watching "guilty pleasure" movies when they pop up on tv (road house, cocktail, james bond films)

    I might even want to add a prequel to the topic:

    Merely abandoning the packaging and shelving of a movie collection; putting all of my discs into storage pages and albums. They take up less space and sre easier to transport. The thing i miss though is the browsing at somebody's movie shelves when you visit - tells you a bit about the person

    All in all, there are movies that i like to own that may not be available for streaming or come on tv, so i'll still be buying them
  15. duncanapple macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008
    A good discussion that I will just add my $.02 to.

    I want to own my music because its something I plan to listen to over and over again - not once. Therefore if I decide to "rent" or "subscribe" to my own library collection vs purchase, I am always at the whim of the person selling it not to raise prices, go out of business, etc. For this reason alone I am also unlikely to (willingly) move to the cloud. Besides worrying about all of the above issues you also have to deal with internet service reliability/availability, bandwidth restrictions (which are coming, the writing is on the wall), and in general the cost associated with keeping all of these services going. I have no problem with companies making a profit but I do my best to insulate myself from having to give them any more money that I have to. Trusting music/movie subscriptions, clouds, and (maybe worst of all) internet service providers takes everything one step further from being under your control.

    On the flip side, since I personally agree with the OP about the questionable value in owning a movie (not many will ever be re-watched even once, let alone the 12+ times it would require to outpace a red box rental or 3 times to outpace a digital download rental) I don't mind renting those. If the economics ever change where all of a sudden redbox raises the price 10x, digital download rentals go through the roof, and DVD purchase prices plummet (this last one unlikely) I can make the decision on a case by case basis each time I want to watch a movie to buy or rent. My prior consumption pattern doesn't matter because each movie will be the first and last time I watch it. I wont regret not buying "the hangover" because the rental price has shot up - I wont ever be watching it again. Likewise when some unknown movie of the future comes out, I may buy or I may rent. Depends on whats cheaper really.

    Lastly, on an unrelated note, I wish the entire movie industry would give up a little of the greed. Renting a movie online is convenient for me, sure. But being 5x more expensive than a redbox is absurd. You have to remember its far cheaper and more convenient for them too - true they have servers to keep going but that's less work than maintaining kiosks, stores, additional employees, etc. I understand the open market and supply and demand so its obv up to them. But it seems like if they would come down to the $3 mark or so, they would more than double their business. Just a hunch.

    edit: one small exception is if you have kids - I will prob buy a few movies here and there when we have them just because they have an uncanny ability to watch the same thing 100x without so much as a peep lol. In that case you obv far exceed the value of purchasing it (in any format lol)
  16. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    No one needs to feel guilty for watching Roadhouse. It's a great movie. It's got everything that most guys watch movies for. Violence, T&A, Gore, Plot, Drama, and Sam Elliot.

    This is, by far, the main reason I own any movies. Kids can watch the same episode or movie 100 times over. I can practically recite any line from Surf's Up ... but I've not actually watched it. Last summer, it was playing behind me in the minivan just about every weekend.
  17. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    Excellent thread and one that mirrors my thinking. I've purchased less than a dozen movies in the last 5 years, mainly because I've only found about a dozen that are worth buying. Now, I watch pretty much everything from Hollywood and a small handful of foreign films that interest me. I just don't think enough of them to buy them.

    I'll add this to the conversation however, Amazon has a stunning used marketplace. As an example, you can purchase the 3 disk LOTR trilogy on bluray for $26.00 including shipping at the time I write this (check the attached screenshot for details). Now, if one can be bothered to go online and order it from Amazon, wait for delivery, rip a copy to your local storage and RESALE it on Amazon, your total cost for legally acquiring 3 movies in bluray format could easily be about $5 assuming you can sell it for what you paid for it.

    This is an interesting way to build one's digital library legally with a minimum of cost. Well, that does depend on already owning suitable storage and being able to handle the capital requirements of the Amazon purchase and resale proposition. Based on the quality of the posts in this thread, I hope its a safe assumption that most of use already have the storage and a spare credit card to handle this transaction.

    Attached Files:

  18. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    You have a funny idea of what "legal" means.

  19. ender land macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2010

    As well as "metaphysics" :)
  20. kiranmk2 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 4, 2008
    I like owning my media, but I'm fed up with having to store it. I've already ripped most of my 2-300 disc collection which is taking up less than half a 2 TB NAS. The problem is I'm pretty anal so I'm yet to rip my DTS discs as there is yet to be a solution for DTS-in-mp4 (although it can now be done, virtually nothing supports it yet). I can barely hear a difference, but I've got the DTS tracks so I damn well want to keep them! Likewise, with extras: Most extras are a big waste of time - give me the teaser, trailer and a good making-of/commentary track. ITunes extras gives me hope that I will one day have a single .ite file with the film and extras. I know that most extras I will watch once and think - "what a waste of time" and I rarely have time to listen to commentary tracks this time, but it still just seems lazy not to include these things with digital copies - especially with the uncompetitive prices and risk of iTunes going belly up (however unlikely). I understand why the DRM is there, but it still pisses me off. Likewise, if iTunes started selling ALAC albums (i.e. ALAC is only available if you buy a complete album) I'd never buy a CD again.
  21. ranoi, Nov 30, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2011

    ranoi macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2011
  22. MovieCutter macrumors 68040


    May 3, 2005
    Washington, DC
  23. NMF macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2011
    Yeah, "owning" movies has always been silly. I never watch a movie more than once.
  24. Omne666 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 16, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thats a shame! I love re-watching particularly good movies and picking up the more subtle things i missed initially. Of course, were not talking several times a week, but several times a year easily.

    As for collecting...hell yeah! I'm a magpie for digital media, and haven't bought physical media in over 2 years now. Love buying from iTunes. If the wife or kids buy a CD or DVD/Blu-ray....its ripped almost immediately.
  25. reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    The essential aspect that this thread lacks is: illegal acquisition.

    Face it, it is part of the "Movie Ownership" world and excluding it does not make sense. The fact of the matter is a lot of people acquire their movies and tv shows through less than legal means, i.e. zero cost. Zero cost should not be confused with the negligible cost that is netflix.

    It is a lot easier to hoard media if you are not paying a dime for it. The only thing it ends up costing is a relatively tiny amount of harddrive space, and you could care less if you ever even watch the movie.

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