Sometime in 2000, I purchased my first DVD player: an Apex 600A. I was attracted to this particular model because it had a secret menu that allowed you to unlock the region coding and disable Macrovision.
This allowed you to watch international DVDs and record them to VHS. I’m not sure why I thought I needed this feature at the time, but the DVD player was reasonably priced at $189.99 and the idea of having this forbidden feature really pushed me over the edge. I wasn’t working yet, so I saved up money from my birthday and Christmas and did some odd jobs to make enough cash to cover (at the time) my most expensive purchase ever.
With my Apex 600A ordered, that left me with the need for something to watch on it. I browsed online forums and websites looking for a great deal on a DVD since I didn’t have much money to spend left over. I took me a couple of days, but I finally found a copy of Highlander on DVD for $7.99. This was an incredible deal when the average DVD was priced somewhere between $25 and $40. This particular copy was discounted so greatly because the front artwork had been slashed with a box cutter and the box was damaged.
I got my DVD player a few days later and then I had to wait a few more days for the DVD to come, but once it did I was in heaven. I watched Highlander over and over and I began working at Blockbuster a month or so later, which provided me with the funds to start growing my collection. I discovered used CD stores that usually had tiny DVD sections and I’d raid these on almost a daily basis. I got huge into following DVD news at DVDTalk.com and I spent a lot of time researching the best DVDs. Movies like Se7en, Fight Club, The Mummy and anything by Kevin Smith were all highly regarded due to their special features. This is what made DVDs unique compared to traditional VHS tapes. They not only contained the movie, but sometimes behind the scenes features, scripts, trailers, and commentary tracks.
I would rarely purchase a DVD that wasn’t choked full of special features and the first thing I did when I got home with a new DVD was to watch all the special features (if I had already seen the movie before). That could take anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours and afterwards I’d watch the movie and then over the next several days watch any and all commentary tracks. I’d take my time to appreciate every single element to the DVD and it wasn’t unusual for me to watch the movie and/or commentary track several times over.
My collection grew from a single DVD into hundreds. At my peak I had around 700 DVDs. This number may have been higher, but that was the highest I ever counted it. My movie collection was my pride and joy. I displayed it on two massive movie racks and family and friends would stop by to “rent” on occasion which made me feel great, since my family was the type that didn’t believe in owning movies.
My movie collection was my everything until I began to struggle with room. I decided I needed to get rid of some of the boxes and reduce my collection to discs only to save space. I also traded and sold off a large part of my collection in the midst of downsizing. Once I began dismantling my collection it lost a part of its charm and my passion cooled off too.
I’d still buy cheap DVDs here and there, but gone were the days of truly appreciating the movie and everything on the disc. I didn’t have the time I once had and I didn’t take the time to invest in my collection the way I once did. Rarely did I watch the special features and sometimes I didn’t even watch the movie.
It blows my mind to think it’s been twenty years since I bought my little Apex DVD player. I’ve owned so many other DVD players over the years and my collection has expanded and contracted several times over. Right now, I have about a dozen movies in their boxes and a small collection of discs in a binder.
Recently, I began collecting VHS tapes and during the process I purchased a handful of DVDs. Its not unusual for me to go into a Goodwill a buy a few since they are normally priced at $0.69 a disc. I look at it as a renting situation for me. I watch the movie and if I don’t like it, I just turn it back into Goodwill. But after looking over at my small DVD and VHS collection, I realize that I miss it. I don’t miss a massive wall of movies that I don’t care about, but I miss the hunt and the collecting. I miss not having to guess whether or not a movie I want to watch is streaming. I miss special features, commentary tracks, and cover art.
I’m going to spend a little more time increasing my movie collection. I think it’ll bring me some joy and we could all use a little more joy in our lives. I’m going to make an effort to appreciate and enjoy the discs that I buy and hopefully re-spark that passion I had so long ago.
Note: I did get use out of the region free capability of my DVD player. After watching Shaun of the Dead in theaters in 2004, I discovered that it was already available on DVD in the UK. I went to Amazon.uk and ordered a copy which came about a week later.