DVD hit the world of movie distribution like an atomic bomb. I got my first player in 1998. Few others had them at that point. By the turn of the century almost every home had at least one DVD player.
It was a frenzy. People no longer settled for renting movies. They wanted to own them, and DVD was the perfect format. The storage capacity of a Digital Versatile Disc allowed supplementary materials and all kinds of bells and whistles.
Horror fans embraced the new technology with a never-before-seen ferocity. Distribution companies were springing up and we were finally — finally! — able to see the movies we craved as they were meant to be seen. In glorious widescreen format, with vibrant colors, and endless background information.
Movie tastes defined the personalities of the people who displayed their collections. Any time I went to a home for the first time, I’d scope out their DVDs. You can get a surprisingly accurate assessment of an individual by what they choose to watch.
For a decade or so it was a kind of utopia. Movies were priced to own and everyone wanted their favorites. There was a lot of talk about movie releases and the quality of various discs at the message boards.
By 2010 or so, things began to change. Streaming became much more prevalent. Connoisseurs switched to Blu-ray. People realized they had shelves full of movies they rarely or never watched, and they began to downsize. Thrift stores began carrying a lot of DVDs.
It’s funny how things come back into fashion. Videocassettes, at one time the most despised medium in movie history, became valuable commodities. Now DVDs are becoming more scarce and desired.
I’m not talking about the zillions of midline titles released in the past twenty years. The older movies, especially ones released by smaller, independent distributors, are just starting to come back into demand.
Horror fans, always among the most passionate and obsessive movie lovers, are still collectors. People want the old movies. DVDs of Anchor Bay, Blue Underground, MGM Midnight Movies, and other great titles from times past are getting harder to find for reasonable prices.
Sure, we’d all love to have Blu-rays of everything, but who can afford it? Besides, I’ve bought my share of old movies in the Blu format, I frankly don’t see a whole lot of difference between a Blu-ray and a DVD of some of these old productions.
I’m buying as many as I can. I haunt thrift stores and library sales every single weekend. When I can find older horror DVDs for a dollar or two, I buy them. I keep some, and others I sell at conventions.
I hasten to say that I am hardly getting rich off of this endeavor. My baseline price for most DVDs is three dollars. I ask more for some. When you consider the gas and time I burn, the investment in procuring them, the price of vendor tables, storing them, and hauling them around, I barely break even. So why do I do it?
Because I love this stuff. I like selling books and movies at low prices. I like meeting people and talking about horror. I’ve met many of the coolest people of my life at cons. My customers know me and they know I have the best prices and that I stand by my product.
I have a sign at my table that states:
PRESERVE OUR HERITAGE. COLLECT PHYSICAL MEDIA.
This is our heritage. We’ve all heard about content in movies being altered for streaming. I don’t like being a slave to the grid. I want to have the movies I love on hand.
If you want to be a part of the horror preservation revolution, now is the time. NOW. You can still get a lot of DVDs online at ridiculously low prices. I just got a six-disc set of Herschell Gordon Lewis movies from Something Weird Video for under ten dollars. That’s cheaper than thrift store prices. I can’t imagine Lewis movies looking a whole lot better in Blu-ray.
I am counting the hours to win an Anchor Bay box set of Mario Bava DVDs. Again, if I win and it looks like I will, it will be under ten dollars.
This is not going to last forever. These movies are going to disappear and you will only be able to get them at scalper’s prices. Or you can stream them.
The Herschell Gordon Lewis discs have short subjects, audio commentaries by the Hersch Man himself, and other delicious extras. Few DVDs are bare bones releases. Hard media offers so much more to the true movie aficionado.
We, the horror loving community, demand more than the normals out there. We want to display our love of the genre for all to see. We want to gaze at them, to take them off the shelf and lovingly open the cases. We like placing the discs in the players.
Preserve our heritage. Collect physical media.
Mark Sieber learned to love horror with Universal, Hammer, and AIP movies, a Scholastic edition of Poe’s Eight Tales of Terror, Sir Graves Ghastly Presents, The Twilight Zone, Shirley Jackson’s The Daemon Lover, The Night Stalker, and a hundred other dark influences. He came into his own in the great horror boom of the 1980’s, reading Charles L. Grant, F. Paul Wilson, Ray Russell, Skipp and Spector, David J. Schow, Stephen King, and countless others. Meanwhile he spent as many hours as possible at drive-in theaters, watching slasher sequels, horror comedies, monster movies, and every other imaginable type of exploitation movie. When the VHS revolution hit, he discovered the joys of Italian and other international horror gems. Trends come and go, but he still enjoys having the living crap scared out of him. Cemetery Dance recently released his collection He Who Types Between the Rows: A Decade of Horror Drive-In. He can be reached at [email protected], and at www.horrordrive-in.com.