The Conversation

“DVDs are like currency to me” exuberantly exclaimed a fellow film lover the other night. It was a statement that, though fitting the theme of the night, has been rattling around in my brain ever since. Considering how swiftly technology is advancing why don’t we treat DVDs more like currency? Surely they are more valuable to film lovers than Bitcoins.

Two years ago, at one of our local film lover’s pub nights, someone suggested the idea of a DVD swap. As some people were slowly upgrading their collection to Blu-ray, having a swap meet of sorts was a way of reducing the redundancy in ones collection. Really, no one needs three or four different copies of Dirty Dancing in their collection…though my wife would disagree.

By all accounts the night was a huge success as numerous DVDs, and books for that matter, found new homes. There was no loud bartering like you get in bustling street markets, simply folks saying “hey, do you mind if I take a look at your stack?” and “what do you want for this film or that one?” The large selection of films that ultimately switched hands nicely reflected the diverse taste that many of us have.

The Accused

Last week a similar thing occurred again, but on a much smaller scale. It provided me a chance to move a few titles that were simply sitting idle in my collection. As much as I loved Jodie Foster’s performance in The Accused, there is rarely a lazy Sunday where I think “I could go for a good legal film about rape right about now.” Instead of letting the film sit idle on my shelf like a deformed toy that has been passed over for a shiny new gaming system, I opted to trade it as part of a package deal. Unlike, say fantasy sports, the swap was a win/win deal for both parties.

By the end of the night I had returned home with almost the same number of discs that I had left with. The only film returning to the shelf was my unopened director’s cut of Oliver Stone’s Alexander. Of the new additions, it was a mix of films I had seen before (The Conversation, Gladiator), others I vaguely recalled seeing years ago (Lawrence of Arabia), and films I had heard of but never got around to watching (Barry Lyndon, Withnail & I). Not a bad haul at all.

Now I get that physical media is slowly losing its appeal in the eyes of those who the favor a more streaming based form of home entertainment. However, as film lovers, should we not be making better use of the DVDs we already have in our possession? Instead of letting them gather dust, and lamenting the fact that something we paid top dollar for upon their release is now being sold in the Wal-Mart $5 bin, we should be using the films as a form of bartering currency.

Barry Lyndon

When I was a kid, trading things was an integral part of the discovery process. Whether it was swapping my peanut butter and jelly sandwich for that exciting pastrami sandwich, trading a Toronto Blue Jay’s baseball card to nab a Cecil Fiedler card, or finding new bands in my teens through mixtapes, there was always value in the process. However, somewhere along the line, the notion of collecting and hoarding items seemed to supersede this.

It is strange in an age where social media has connected film lovers across the globe in ways we could not fathom ten years ago, the simple act of physically sharing titles still seems somewhat foreign. One of the benefits of having a monthly film pub night in town is that you mention a film you haven’t seen and someone surprises you with a copy to borrow the following month. Obviously “borrowing titles” is much harder to achieve across continents, but the process of trading titles that you no longer want is rather simple. In fact all it would cost is the postage which, in most cases, is a minor inconvenience.

Really, it cannot be any worse than having the DVDs/Blu-rays filling up landfills or sitting on a shelf waiting for that day when they are officially considered obsolete like a dust laden stack of VHS cassettes. So maybe we should put more thought into treating our DVDs and Blu-rays like currency as films need to be shared and not merely collected.

10 Comments

  1. An interesting argument. I would be happy to take part in a swap. Except I sold almost all of my DVDs (to Half Priced Books) two years ago, and gave away many of the rest. I had about 500, or so, at one point. Now . . . now I have no more than 30.

    1. The rise of streaming content, and torrents, has caused a lot of people to sell their DVDs, which is to be expected. However, at least you passed on some of the ones you could not sell to others. It seems like such a waste just to throw them, specifically the good films, in the trash.

  2. Courtney, this is an intriguing idea. I still have movies at home that I doubt that I’ll watch again but are really good movies. Of course, having some many film lovers meeting in Toronto so frequently makes it easier. What’s a person to do in Missouri?

    1. I know that there are a few online DVD swapping sites but some have rather complex rules in order to keep things fair. Considering how big and diverse the film blogging community is, it is surprising that there is not something similar set up online specifically for bloggers. You may not have a lot of film bloggers in Missouri but I am sure there are few at least…or in nearby areas. Of course this may all just be a pipe dream as cellphones and usb keys are changing how many people consume films.

      1. I know of one other St. Louis blogger (John Larue at the Droid You’re Looking For), but that’s all I’ve found so far. There’s a local film critics society, but it’s only for people who work for a “professional” publication. So no luck there. I’m sure there are a few others, but I think it’s pretty scarce here.

  3. The reason I buy some DVDs isn’t just to get the chance to see films that I love but also ensure that if a film goes out of print and someone wants to see it. I’d let that person borrow it. Plus, I always clean my DVD shelf and the cases every 2 weeks. Sure, people can be all about streaming but I always like to have a DVD copy. Even for the extras as it’s among the many reasons why I love the Criterion Collection.

    1. Having copies of titles that have gone out of print are one of the few remaining perks of DVDs. The Criterion Collection is a good example of that. Plus, streaming media has not evolved to a point where you can get everything you want to watch in one specific place.

  4. Interesting article. As a movie collector for a little over a decade, I have acquired thousands of DVDs, VHS tapes, and now Blu-rays – never paying over $5 a title. My shelves are full, but are never dusty. I could never get rid of them, instead of swapping I welcome friends and family to borrow them. This way I always have them at my disposal, without worrying about finding a movie in a cloud or waiting 2 weeks (or longer) to be mailed a particular movie only to find out I am no longer interested in seeing said title.

    For more on collecting, discussing, and even swapping movies I urge you to check out Movie Madness – http://movietalk.co.nr (a fairly new forum, always welcoming new movie lovers)

    1. I know of a few DVD swapping sites but had not heard of Movie Madness, will have to check that one out.
      Do you find that you still watch your VHS tapes? Or did you simply upgrade all those titles to DVD/Blu-ray? I still have most of my old VHS films, and a working VHS player, but rarely go back to them.

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