16mm “rental versions” of feature films. The videotape “format wars.” Betamax. VHS. LaserDisc. DVD-Video. The “high-definition disc wars.” HD-DVD. Blu-Ray Disc. Streaming video online.
With the holiday season around the corner, you may be deciding to invest in the latest Roku streaming player, or to purchase the latest “smart” Blu-Ray disc player.
Warner Archive and the rise of “MOD” DVD & Blu-Ray discs:
In 2009, Warner Bros. Pictures launched the “Warner Archive” home entertainment line, focusing on unique and hard-to-find film and television programs from the studio’s backlog (including the RKO Radio Pictures library and the pre-1986 MGM holdings).
The “archive” titles are released as “manufactured-on-demand” (MOD) DVD and Blu-Ray discs and are not available in stores. Warner Archive titles can be only purchased online from the studio, or through other web retailers including Amazon. Competing studios have followed suit, including Sony’s “choice” series (of vintage Columbia feature films) and Universal’s “vault” series.
Donna Bertazzoni, professor of journalism at Hood College said that the studios’ MOD disc titles were beneficial for newer audiences who may want to watch rare films. “You don’t want to lose that history,” Bertazzoni said.
Studios and specialty labels go into streaming
Shout! Factory, a prominent film and music reissue label, launched “Shout! Factory TV” earlier this year, to compliment the company’s core business of issuing classic/cult films and TV shows on DVD and Blu-Ray disc formats.
The company has added several classic films to their streaming service, including John Ford’s 1939 western “Stagecoach,” the 1944 Marx Brothers farce “A Night in Casablanca,” and select episodes of the cult series “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Paramount Pictures recently launched their own ad-supported YouTube channel, with select full-length films from the company’s post-1948 library (including select features from the studio’s ownership of the Republic Pictures library). Sony also has their own ad-supported streaming service, “Crackle.”
This is great for those who don’t want to pay expensive prices for DVD or Blu-Ray titles, or for those who are looking to “cut the cord” to combat the rising cost of cable television packages. Most of these services can be accessed on the web, or through streaming devices including Roku, Google’s Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.
Katherine Orloff, assistant professor of journalism at Hood College, said that physical media would still be popular with collectors, while streaming films would be the wave of the future.
“We’re heading towards streaming for the standard of visual media,” Orloff said.
Tim Jacobsen, adjunct professor of visual media at Hood, stated that films on physical media formats could become valuable in the future.
“You don’t want to get rid of that,” Jacobsen said. “You may never know how valuable it will be someday.”
“Adjust your Tracking” (A documentary about VHS tape collectors, through the courtesy of Shout! Factory TV)
SIDEBAR: The author/writer of “Silver Screen Reflections” uses both streaming (usually for titles on Shout! Factory TV) and physical media (DVD & Blu-Ray disc) to watch his favorite films, in addition to watching them in a theater (or on TV, if uncut/unedited).
Questions/comments about physical media or streaming? Drop a line at the comments section!