Back in November, new streaming platform Disney Plus stated, “There will not be a ‘rotating slate’ of licensed movies each month… with Disney Plus, beloved classics from the Disney vault will now stream in a permanent home — all available on day one.”
But on January 1, streamers have noticed titles that were available at launch disappear from the platform, such as the Home Alone franchise and The Sandlot. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise given that every service already rotates films in-and-out at the beginning of every month.
The important part from all of this is that you really don’t own anything if you only subscribe to Netflix, HBO, and Disney Plus, and you’re beholden to the films they decide to include. As another example, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was available to stream on Netflix back in the summer, got taken off in the fall, and is now back for another run this month. It’s a similar story for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.
Those are two landmark films of the 2010s that, at one time or another, I relied on Netflix for my fix. I now currently own both Blu-rays and can watch them anytime I want, not just whenever the streaming platform decides they’re profitable to include.
A lot of quality films that left Netflix in the month of December: Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Black Hawk Down, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction (another title that has been removed on multiple occasions), Rain Man, Rocky, Schindler’s List, and Winter’s Bone. It Comes at Night, Escape from New York, Mad Max 2: Road Warrior and every Bond film prior to 2002 left Amazon Prime. Annie Hall and Boy’s Don’t Cry left HBO.
This is just an example of one month. This happens every 30 days, and fans are left disappointed that one of their obsessions is no longer viewable. At the rate things come and go, you might as well wait for the McRib.
But, the solution is clear: The Blu-ray defeats all streaming platforms.
About a year ago, Streaming Observer did a study on which streaming service had the most quality films by using Rotten Tomatoes’ “Certified Fresh” metric. The study found that Netflix had more than Prime, Hulu, and HBO combined, but it also included the number of total quality films on each platform.
The number between the four is 1,080. Now, let’s say the average price of a Blu-ray is $15 (some are $20-25, some are $5-10, give or take). That’s $16,200 in total to own the movies, without any worry that they will be taken away from you. Add on Disney Plus, which has around 500 films (and let’s just say they are all worthy of owning), that’s about $23,000-24,000.
If you willingly pay the money for all five services, it comes out to $670 per year (assuming default and best payment scenarios). Now, it all depends on how long you keep the services, but let’s say on average it is 50 years (25 years old to 75 years of age). That’s $33,500, around $10,000 more than buying the physical copies, and likely $12,000-13,000 more if you take away some of the Disney titles. Now, of course, these are estimates, but if you’re a lifelong movie nerd, it’s not in your best interest financially — not to mention you would pay more for viewing selections over which you have no control.
Most would argue it is easier to watch what they want with the click of a button from their own home, but realizing they could be saving this much money would hopefully change their state of mind. You don’t even have to account for the price of gas nowadays because of online retailers such as Amazon (and the free shipping that comes with Amazon Prime).
Now, I do realize that most people would not want to own or care to watch every single “certified fresh” film. But some of them would surely want to own a few movies that were panned by critics. So I believe this metric balances out in the end.
Streaming services are a good place to discover films you might not be aware of (and I do think most people use them just for this, in a sense). But, like the reliance on Netflix for available movie selections, do you really want to rely on a computer algorithm to dictate your taste? If you do rely on recommendations, you can still find them just the same by using sites like IMDB, Letterboxd, and Rotten Tomatoes — none of which require a subscription.
In fact, some of the greatest discoveries you could possibly make are not only unavailable to stream, but also unavailable for an online rental. Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 horror classic Possession is a perfect example. The epic was banned by the UK upon release because of violent content and didn’t receive a Blu-ray approval until 2014. The Blu-ray/DVD combo is the only way to view the film other than an illegal download.
The same goes for David Lynch’s 1990 film Wild at Heart, starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. Lynch, one of the great American directors of all-time, is a very hard artist to get ahold of. Inland Empire is also invisible on the web, and Lost Highway was the same way for a very long time.
Hayao Miyazaki is a master of his craft in Japan with animation, and the only way to get his material is via disc or $15 digital purchase. Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle, among others, all feature the same issue.
Some ponder whether a few of Miyazaki’s projects will appear on Disney Plus in the future. That hope lives with a lot of us, that our favorite streaming services will someday add — or re-add — our favorite films. But with the discs, that hope doesn’t ever have to exist. It’s already tangible, as you own them forever. With the Internet, where each new streaming service is fighting for your loyalty, things are always changing — and are this up in the air.