FilmStruck closing, Criterion Channel on the horizon, UltraViolet shutting down, and Disney+ among many conglomerates’ individual streaming services taking shape. It’s a pretty fractious time to be a streaming consumer.

It’s never been a better time to be a DVD hoarder or Blu-ray junkie. I’ve seen the writing on the wall for some time myself, but all these recent developments are further reinforcing my desire to create my own Netflix of sorts, stocked only with the titles I like – available any time I like for as long as they don’t physically burst into flames.

Engadget perfectly summed up the futility of reliance on streaming platforms and digital movie storefronts:

The lesson to take away from UltraViolet’s demise is that we can’t rely on digital platforms, because the landlord always has final say. There seems to be no (legal) digital locker that can’t be pulled in an instant if an executive demands it. So, if you care about something, the smart thing to do is to keep it alive in your own home.
— Read on

When I was young and flush with cash and no responsibility, I amassed a rather large VHS collection while working at a video store. Over the years I collected more and more titles as I exposed myself to new titles I liked and old goodies I discovered, and I transitioned many of those crusty, time-worn VHS tapes to DVDs and Blu-rays. As adulthood set in, I had to sell off most of my collection.

Then came the siren song of little red envelopes filled with any DVD I wanted in my mailbox, followed by a virtually-limitless video store at my fingertips with Netflix streaming. I traded ownership for monthly fees to access everything I loved. Every month, new things started appearing, but in the last couple years, things started coming and going at random. Searches for things I wanted to watch at a moment’s notice came up empty, as they appeared on other streaming platforms I didn’t subscribe to at the time. The cracks in the streaming Shangri-La increasingly evident.

So in the past year, I’ve been getting the band back together. I’ve been on an insatiable hunt for all the movies I know and love, acquiring them in the best formats possible – something not always easy as studios have gotten lax on bringing older, possibly-obscure catalog titles to modern formats. I strive for Blu-ray or better yet 4K, but some titles (like the criminally under appreciated Wonder Boys) find their best possible format in an HD stream from Google Play.

Why do I love physical media so much? It comes down to a kind of Cameron Crowe-like reverence to the experience. Much like vinyl collectors coo over liner notes and the warmth of a turntable’s sound, the experience of owning a movie collection and maximizing the theater experience in one’s own home holds the same kind of self-satisfaction factor. It commands the same kind of attention as a record – the requirement of being in a place designated for the enjoyment of movies, and setting aside the time to devote your attention to a piece of art from beginning to end. After years of watching movies in the background – as a kind of medicating noise – it’s fulfilling on a whole other level.

Then there’s the whole “Blu-rays look better than stream” thing, which is, of course, entirely true. A good Blu-ray with a competent lossless surround sound mix blows a Hulu movie out of the water any day. I can’t even imagine how I enjoyed watching movies for so long with those micro-sized, tinny iPhone speakers for so long, compared to my – admittedly modest – Dolby Atmos home theater setup. Call me a zealot, but there really is no comparison. Movies really do need to be experienced rather than just watched – even the bad ones. The film grain brought out by proficient Blu-ray and 4K masters really brings out the organic nature of film that makes it so magical. That’s something the blocky compression that streaming obscures.

My physical media “hunt” has transitioned largely from finding titles I love to less-urgent bargain discoveries and promising blind buys once in a blue moon, but it’s always fun to peruse the racks at a well-stocked pawn shop or second-hand book store. Sometimes I find a better version of something I already have. Sometimes I strike out completely. It’s all part of the tactile thrill of the physical media collector. I have fully rekindled that love of film I had when I was young. That’s something a Netflix binge never achieves.