Movies: Digital vs Physical

November 26, 2016

I still buy movies and I still buy them on physical media. There are a few reasons:

  • When I buy a movie on physical media, I own the media and I can play it whenever I want. If I bought a movie via one of the streaming sites (iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, etc), I buy a license to stream the media. At anytime, I could lose that license.
  • I have a decent home theater system and having high bitrate video (1080p or 2160p) and lossless audio is a treat. A movie streamed has inferior picture and audio quality.
  • For most new releases, the physical media comes with a Ultraviolet code to redeem for a free streaming copy of the movie also. Yup, all the benefits of both in one package.
  • The usage caps that are now being implemented by Comcast and other internet service providers make it hard to justify using bandwidth to stream an inferior version of a film just for the sake of convenience.

Outside of the above reasons, there's a big reason to go with physical media: Cost. The cost of physical vs streaming is insane, both for movies on sale and regular priced movies. This last Black Friday, I picked up five movies. All on sale, all come with a digital streaming code:

  • San Andreas. Best Buy: $4. Vudu: $13.99.
  • The Wolverine. Best Buy: $4. Vudu: $13.99.
  • Kung Fu Panda 3. Target: $8. Vudu: $10.
  • The Legend of Tarzan: Target: $8. Vudu: $10.
  • Vertigo: Target: $13. Vudu: $14.

Even if one is not interested in physical media, buying a physical copy to get the Ultraviolet code is sometimes much cheaper than buying the digital copy only. So, not only will one have the convenience of streaming, but also have a superior quality physical copy of the film. Not sure what the argument against this is. It almost seems like the movie studios are trying to sell more physical media -- or they think that the public is stupid and will buy the more expensive streaming version alone. Shrug.

And on the rental front, I (like a lot of people) live close to a Redbox kiosk. Renting from Redbox is easy, just go to the website, reserve a movie then go pick it up. Yes, it's not as convenient as sitting on the couch and renting a streaming version of a film. But, the pricing is again insane. Taking a quick look (for Bluray vs HDX, both 1080p):

  • Sausage Party. Redbox: $2. Vudu: $6.
  • Star Trek Beyond. Redbox: $2. Vudu: $5.
  • The Legend of Tarzan. Redbox: $2. Vudu: $5.
  • Independence Day Resurgence. Redbox: $2. Vudu: $6.

The best thing about Redbox is that if one subscribes to their mailing list, they send coupons every week (usually on Friday) and those coupons are usually take $1 off any rental or sometimes "rent one get one free". It's hard to beat a $1 rental of a new release.

Apparently, the price of convenience is pretty high.


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