Here's what we lose when studios stop selling movies on DVD and Blu-ray

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Monday, November 6, 2023 - 11:47am
Updated: Monday, November 6, 2023 - 11:48am

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Movies in DVD cases on a shelf used as decoration
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If you have any old VHS tapes around, then you probably know how unlikely it is you’ll actually be able to play them anymore.

Now it looks like your DVDs might be going the way of the VHS.

Best Buy announced it is phasing out sales of DVDs early next year, and while that may not seem all that surprising given the streaming landscape we live in, some cinephiles are worried about the implications of only having access to films on streaming services. 

There are concerns about the censorship of classic movies — from racist epithets to the nude scene in “Splash” — as well as the availability of more obscure films that you might just not be able to find anymore.

For more on it all, The Show sat down with Arizona State University film professor Kevin Sandler and asked him first about his reaction to Best Buy’s announcement and the impending death of DVDs. 

Kevin Sandler
Arizona State University
Kevin Sandler

Interview highlights

On movies that aren’t available on streaming services

I’m teaching a Francis Ford Coppola class at ASU, and students need to purchase movies to watch during the class. And say two years ago, they could purchase all the greatest Francis Ford Coppola movies. Now I look and I see “The Godfather Part III” isn’t even available to rent. It’s only available to purchase. So this is kind of what’s happening is that you have either films that are no longer rentable or no longer available because streaming services are seeing the costs of putting everything that they own online to be a very expensive proposition. So they’re removing stuff from their sites partly as a tax write-off, but also that they don’t have to pay residuals continually to people for hosting their films on their sites.

On video and audio quality

It’s commonly understood that video streaming that you can get is of a less quality — say a 4K stream is of less quality than if you watch it on a 4K Blu- ray Disc. Audio is kind of close, but because of bitrates, because of compression and all these other things that you may not be getting a 4K stream even though it says 4K. So if you really want that great image — but how many people really need that great of an image? They’re probably going to own the DVD or the Blu-ray in the first place.

On removing racial epithets from “The French Connection” (1971)

There is the lead — played by Gene Hackman, who plays Popeye Doyle — who uses some racial epithets. And that’s really part of his character. And it was “Oh, it’s controversial” back in the day, but also made him this even an antihero but somewhat of a villain of the piece. And it was celebrated for this very dark portrayal of a police sergeant. And that, as far as I know, you can only get the edited version. If you want to get the older version, you’re probably not going to be able to find it for free online because it’s of value. And so you would have to, in a way, resort to a DVD or a Blu-ray or a VHS.

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