Is the DVD dead? Bury them in landfill, hold some kind of wake for their passing? It’s increasingly hard to buy one on the high street now HMV have gone under. Unless you count buying Davina’s work out or Titanic in the supermarket with your bananas and frozen sausages (so let’s not). And renting….that just seems like a quaint twentieth century idea (Tarantino, famously, worked as a video store clerk). But when did you last go to Blockbusters? Well then. They, too, are no more.
Of course, when this whole film thing started out nobody expected to own a film. You queued up, you paid your pennies, you took your boyfriend to the local picture palace, sometimes you might even get to watch the film. Forward wind a few years and TV started screening features and you’d be all over the Radio Times to see what was on. Late at night, usually. Before closedown. And then someone invented video tape.
VHS. The format looks so big now. It’s about the size of 100 i-phones. But…but…you could tape stuff from the TV. You didn’t even have to be in the house! You could get skinned alive by your Mum for taping over Corrie. You could rent stuff. You could even buy films. And watch them again. At home. Woah! The future had arrived. It was the idea of ‘in your own home’ that provoked a minor moral panic over video nasties in the eighties. And the increased opportunities for in private viewing that fuelled exponential growth in the porn industry at about the same time. That innocent looking reel of tape in a black box had a lot to answer for.
DVD made it all so much simpler and smaller. And we bought them, and borrowed them, hired them and (illegally) copied them. We built shelves that were DVD shaped for them. Some of us even went blu ray in a kind of betamax cul-de sac of technological obsolescence. There were special features, directors cuts, actor interviews, the obscure stuff on disc 2. For a feature to go straight to DVD was to fail. DVDs. We collected them. 100s of them. Everywhere.
And now it seems like film is becoming ethereal again. Streamed, downloaded, on i-player, on You Tube. All of film history is out there to be seen all of the time anywhere in the world. You can watch it on your laptop, your phone or your tablet. The place where it is isn’t somewhere you can go. It’s a mega processing cloud computing centre somewhere in the mid west. It’s a lot of 1’s and 0’s. It is data. You can’t touch it. Though you can tweet what you thought. It all seems a bit unreal. But then again, that was what going to the movies has always been about. Unreality.
I have been wondering lately if all the retro stuff that’s about is what people cling to when normal everyday life is so online. So not really there. Maybe that’s where DVD’s will end up. As some kind of retro relic. Like when second hand dresses stopped being jumble and started being ‘vintage’.
We, at Magic Lantern Film Club, are not becoming an online only service. Pinch us, we’re not dreaming. So come and join us. See you soon (for real).