Blu-ray DVD disc

Poll: Do You Still Buy Physical Media?

The news coverage would have you believe that physical media is already dead, and sometimes it feels like the whole world has moved to streaming. Yet movies – a lot of them – keep getting released on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4k Ultra HD every week. Are you still an active buyer, or have you slowed or stopped your purchasing?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t buy as many Blu-rays as I used to. Barely a few years ago, I would reliably buy a couple of movies on disc pretty much every week. Now I can go months between purchases. Titles that I would have scooped up right away in the past will linger on my ever-growing wish list until I catch them at an appealing enough sale.

That has little to do with streaming, though I’m not opposed to it. Streaming has taken over as my rental medium of choice for movies I’m not confident I need to own. Honestly, streaming quality has hit the point that it’s “good enough” for that need, and you can’t argue with the convenience of it. However, if I do wish to add a movie to my permanent collection, it will be on disc, not a digital copy. Blu-ray still offers a sizeable improvement in both picture and sound quality, with no risk of movies I’ve purchased suddenly vanishing because a streaming service goes under or a studio loses the rights to a certain title.

Nevertheless, over time the size of my movie collection has become a burden. A significant percentage of the discs on my shelves have gone unwatched since I bought them. Between raising my kids, other life responsibilities, and the explosion of quality television shows in the Peak TV era that I struggle to keep up with, I just don’t have time to watch as many movies as I used to. It seems irresponsible to keep spending money on movies I’m not going to watch anytime soon.

These days, most of my disc purchases are restricted to either titles that are important to me personally, some SteelBook collectibles that I don’t want to miss out on (because SteelBooks are often limited in availability), and the occasional impulse purchase that I get at a good sale price.

Do You Still Buy Movies on Physical Disc?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

45 comments

  1. Brian

    I’m not a believer or adapter in digital download, streaming junk. I have heard too many horror stories about people buying something digitally and years down the road when their hard drive crashes or they lose their one jump drive with all their stuff, they find wherever they purchased said digital item no longer carries it. That’s not going to happen to me. I have a considerable collection of DVD’s, blu-rays and 4k’s and will until I die I imagine. If I have a physical copy, electricity and a player, I will always have my movies.

    • True story. My internet was unreliable for the past couple of days so if I wanted to watch a movie it would be either the satellite (not much better quality than streaming) or a physical disc. Hell, even some of the games I play on the PC were squawking about the internet being down. So yeah, nothing beats physical ownership.

  2. After years of double, triple, and quadruple dipping, I will admit I buy less. That has nothing to do with physical media, but the realization that I don’t have time to watch as many movies and that movies will often sit unopened. No reason to really buy everything that comes out anymore. With age I’ve become more savvy with my purchases and only buy must haves or something I intend to watch right away. That said, I’ve purchased exactly zero digital titles. If I’m going to buy, it’ll be physical media. I really wish Redbox would do 4K in their boxes. I know they have them in some markets, but I live in the 4th largest city in the country and we don’t get them. Guess they don’t like revenue.

  3. Brian

    Also, to kind of edit the above, I am not saying I am against folks who do, it is just not for me. Whatever works for you works for you and it could just be I feel that way because I’m an old dude. My son downloads games he purchases, I’m not a fan of that either. Sorry for the soapbox action.

  4. njscorpio

    The types of discs I buy tend to be pretty specific.

    I buy Jackie Chan Blu-Rays and DVDs still (I’ll be getting that Criteron release of Police Story 1 & 2) during the next sale.

    If there is a particular movie that I just really want in my collection, after having watched/bought a digital copy, I’ll still buy the disc…as in the case of ‘Mandy’, but that is rare.

    I do buy DVDs now and then of content that has not been released digitally, such as music video collections (like Metallica).

    I used to buy one or two discs a week, now it’s more like 4 a year at the most. I do buy one or two digital movies per week instead now, typically new releases via code reseller sites (so like $6 for a new release).

    • njscorpio

      FWIW…My Vudu digital library has 1,129 movies, and my Movies Anywhere library has 837 titles (of course the majority of that is overlap).

  5. Bolo

    I buy less than I did 10 years ago, but that’s because I already have most of the titles I want. There are usually less than 5 new movies released each year that I want to own. There were only 3 movies released in 2018 that I want to own. I’m picking up mostly old titles that were either never released before, or that I never got around to grabbing. And I buy some anime shows that I want to check out.

    I like 4K, but for the most part the improvement in AV from blu ray isn’t worth the money for me. So, I am not upgrading a title I already own from blu to 4K unless there’s a reason other than the AV quality (for example: if the 4K release of ‘Amadeus’ contains the original theatrical cut).

  6. I’ve cut back quite a bit, although that has more to do with getting married than anything else. When I wasn’t working or sleeping, I was invariably watching movies. I averaged 6 titles a week in 2012 and 5 in 2013. Last year, it was down to 2-3 a week, and I’m on the lower side of that year-to-date.

    It’s more about time than money, but it’s funny how one influences the other. I usually have a small stack of unwatched titles, so I know it might be a bit before I get around to watching a new acquisition. If I’m not going to watch it now, why not wait for a price drop? And while I wait, I’ll often decide a movie wasn’t all that compelling after all and skip it entirely.

    Of the last 100 titles I’ve picked up — around 6 months’ worth — the split is 56 on Blu-ray, 43 on Ultra HD Blu-ray, and 1 on DVD. Virtually all of those Blu-ray releases are titles from Arrow, Criterion, Scream Factory, Vinegar Syndrome, Scorpion, Twilight Time, Kino Lorber, and Warner Archive.

    • Mr Paul Jacob

      Adam,
      I notice you are also buying titles from specialist companies (Criterion, Eureka, Arrow, Indicator etc.).
      It seems that some great special editions are also increasingly being released as limited editions. These releases are aimed squarely at older (and yes, younger) cinephiles, who love the haptic quality of physical media. I think that is where the current trend lies. Here in the UK, one of the sole surviving physical media chain stores (HMV (including Fopp) almost went under. Fortunately, it was rescued by a Canadian vinyl enthusiast. Nonetheless we need to put our money where our players are and buy more from physical stores. Otherwise they WILL go the way of the Dodo. And we don’t want to be left in the sole clutches of a jungle-based online store

  7. Scott

    My selection was for “cutting back or slowed my purchasing”, however my selection could have been, “I almost only buy 3D blu rays”.

    Sadly I love 3D just as much as when it first came out, it is a frustrating endeavor for certain. Since 3D blu came about I’ve definitely bought more of those as there was never a way to rent them. There aren’t many movies now-a-days that I am compelled to own, so I’ll just rent them at Red Box (I guess that shows that I still prefer physical media to streaming), however to enjoy 3D you pretty much have to buy them. Add to the fact that the studios are dicks and more and more I am forced to buy 3D from overseas at much higher prices. I could rant about this for paragraph after paragraph.

    I’ll always prefer physical media as I like to see the pretty packaging and hold the disk in my hand, besides the fact that it is a superior delivery method. It’s sad that the trend is convenience over quality, same can be said for music as well as movies.

    • Robert Page

      I’m in that floundering 3D boat with you Bro ! It’s a shame that they have 3D masters of these films and just arbitrarily won’t sell them here in US. Thank goodness we can buy them overseas, I don’t think the prices are that much more expensive, but it is the delay for European releases and long shipping times that irritates me !

      Had a nice thing going for a while renting interesting but not “must buy” titles from Redbox, For $2 I would rip the movie and have a digital copy. You couldn’t copy it to blu-ray without the copy protection kicking in but they showed perfectly through a USB or external hard drive. Unfortunately, several months ago Redbox adapted a different copy protection system and that nice way to get digital copies doesn’t work anymore. Damn.

      I have reduced purchases of physical media, discs and cd’s, but do buy the physical copies of anything I’m really interested in. When my friends ask me why I still am doing that, I say, ” the quality is much better and when the cloud bursts you’ll be coming to my repertory theater to see your favorite movies ! ” LOL

      • njscorpio

        I, too, still enjoy 3D, and maybe 1 out of every 8 discs I still buy end up being 3D, and typically imports from Europe (like Thor Ragnarok).

        • Csm101

          I just added three 3d titles to my collection last week. All three imports from Germany, UK, and Japan. I feel like the band members on the sinking Titanic, but I can’t help it, I still love it as much as when it came out.

          • Same here. I find it funny they say “there’s no demand for 3D” but the few 3D titles they have been put up for sale in the US usually sell out less than 24 hours even when they ridiculously price them at a premium over even UHD (Aquaman was $45 for 3D versus $25 for UHD). It’s often cheaper to buy the same disc from Canada or the UK and pay international shipping than the “discouragement tax” that US retailers are charging for 3D movies. With the Oculus Go being a huge hit last year and with VR expanding even more this year, we might see a resurgence in 3D movies. I see a ton of people online asking for how to view movies in 3D on their new headsets. If studios don’t make this stuff available, it’s just lost revenue because people will simply turn to pirate copies online. Let someone else in Europe deal with finding a 3D disc, rip it, and post it for all to enjoy.

          • Barsoom Bob

            I have an imported copy of the 3D Terminator 2 and it is a bang up job. It was almost like seeing the movie again for the first time, you will enjoy it.

          • William Henley

            I have both the 3D and the 4k that I had imported from the UK, and I saw it in 3D at the theater. When film movies are converted to 3D, they usually scrub every single piece of grain from it – I am not sure if everyone has this issue, but grain in 3D gives me headaches and looks awful. It looks like they just did the UHD conversion from the final workflow which kind of makes sense, as I would assume you would do your color grading after your DNR.

            There is mixed reactions to the UHD release. If you had never seen the movie before, you would probably think the UHD was awesome – they did an EXCELLENT job with DNR on the movie – probably the best (worst depending on your viewpoint) that I have ever seen. But yes, the grain is gone, which upsets purists (the same purists who think that all old movies need to be upgraded to
            Atmos and Dolby Vision / HDR). Give it a chance and enjoy – it looks great.

            Oh and the 3D is awesome as well – this movie really works well in 3D

  8. Timcharger

    Checked: I’ve definitely cut back or slowed down my purchasing.

    Checked: I only (OR MOSTLY) buy important titles or collectible packaging.

    Can’t check both. Seems like a lot of overlap in these 2 selections.

  9. Deaditelord

    I prefer physical media when it comes to purchasing media and streaming for rentals. However, with 2D blu-rays and DVDs, I rip each one to a lossless MKV file so I can play it from my NAS. The only time I use an actual disc these days is when watching 3D or UHD blu-rays. If they come up with a safer/easier method to rollback the firmware on my existing blu-ray drives so they can read UHD blu-rays, I’ll convert my 4K collection too.

    Unless they come up with digital copies that look and sound superior to physical media, I won’t be abandoning discs anytime soon.

    • William Henley

      I finally caved and just bought off of ebay a drive that was guarenteed to have the old firmware, and one that worked with Libre mode in MakeMKV. Been ripping my 4k discs like crazy.

      Hint if you ever start ripping, I noticed that I can save about 10-15 gig by removing all non-english audio tracks. Still, I just ripped something that was STILL 80 gig.

  10. Csm101

    I’m not against renting a streamed version of something, but I will go physical until it’s nit available. Just like with 3d. There are too many awesome remastered titles coming out and have been released that keep me giddy as a collector. The storage is becoming a problem though.

    • Deaditelord

      VHS snob! Don’t you know that for true analog superiority, betamax is king! 🙂

      I still have a couple VHS tapes left, No VHS player to play them on… but they still sit on my shelf next to my handful of laserdiscs.

      • Oh, sure, I love Betamax. Both my father and my grandfather first bought Beta, thinking that would win the format war. We didn’t get VHS until 1989.

        @Robert Stokes: D-VHS, or D-Theater, yes. Would love to have a player and some tapes, but it was never released in Belgium. And online prices are skyrocketing. Very collectible medium.

  11. Stephen Fox

    I’ve been at the ‘how many more times am I going to buy this damn movie’ stage for awhile. Gone from VHS > Laserdisc > DVD > Blu-ray > UHD. Each generation I’m buying fewer discs. I’m at 6 UHD’s now after joining it 2 years ago. Staring at the movie shelf realizing I’ve watched it once and because I’d seen the movie so many times before, it just sits there. Then there are the ‘waiting for upgrade titles’ like LOTR Extended editions and such. Its on blu-ray now, but I’m going to regret the purchase when the UHD comes out, unless its just a ‘dump on UHD’ edition and not an upgrade. Mostly I’m torn on purchases and overly cautious.

  12. Hector J Hernandez

    I enjoy buying Blu Ray movie’s that have slip covers, especially lenticular slip covers. Best Buy is the only major retailer that I know of, that provide slipcovers to certain 3D Blu Ray movie’s. Aquaman 3D and The Meg 3D come to mind. 3D movies sold at Best Buy are usually packed with 3 disks ( 3D Blu Ray, Blu Ray, and DVD) along with a digital copy. Once they’re sold out they can go for $50 or more on eBay. So I find collecting title’s from Best Buy more ideal than spending X amount of $ on a regular digital title.

  13. EM

    Iʼve not changed my criteria, but Iʼm selective and most of what I want has already been released and added to my collection, and therefore there isnʼt much for me to buy. I do keep an eye out for disc releases of interest. Iʼm open to trying out movies I havenʼt seen (old and new)—potential selections for my collection—but Iʼm against blind‐buying, for an excellent reputation or fascinating trailer or description is a poor guarantee of the enduring affection required for filling precious shelf space. I havenʼt jumped on the UHD bandwagon; and frankly, very few have been the UHD releases that would interest me if I had. To date, I have never rented via streaming; and I am dead set against download‐only purchases for the usual reasons. However, I have occasionally found streaming useful for viewing public‐domain material I was having trouble finding for rent or library loan or theatrical viewing.

  14. NN

    Only way I’m going to switch to all streaming is if I have no other choice. I buy all 4k discs now, although for stuff I already own on Blu-ray I have prerequisites before I double dip:

    Has to be a movie I really like (obviously)

    &

    It has to be a movie that is legit 4k, not the 2k upscaled stuff that a gross amount of them are. If it’s not, then it has to be a night and day difference over the Blu-Ray (which has been the case for some really old Blu discs).

  15. Jason

    If my media buying habits have fluctuated it’s only because the number of movies or TV shows I’ve wanted to buy has varied over time. But I still buy plenty of blu-rays. I may not watch a recent purchase for ages, but I like being able to grab it off the shelf years later when I have a random craving. Streaming would seem the ideal choice for things like that, but I’ve lost count of the number of times that’s failed me due to network/signon glitches or the vagaries of exclusives and licensing. (Of course things like that seem far more likely to happen when you’re specifically planning to stream something. Or is that just me?) I also can’t stand the occasional drop in quality, whether at the very beginning as it buffers or if there’s a hiccup in the stream.

    As far as digital purchases, honestly I just don’t trust them. Things I can download and keep are fine, but they’re never as sharp and good looking as the blu-ray anyway. The only digital copies I own are the ones that have come with the physical media I’ve bought.

    I’m a bit more judicious when considering buying a re-release on UHD if I’ve already got the blu-ray. I’ve done it, but only for select items. Maybe a quarter of new purchases are the UHD/blu-ray combo, if it’s a movie I think is worth the extra few dollars.

    When I complain about the selection at my local Best Buy, they keep trying to convince me that physical media is dying. The last time I went in to buy a movie (a new release, no less) there weren’t any copies to be had, yet they had taken another chunk of shelf space away from blu-rays. (To make room for the selection of vinyl, apparently.) Seems a bit odd that they claim people aren’t buying physical media when they don’t even bother to keep the latest blockbuster movies available in the first place.

  16. Larry Hill

    Like so many above, I have cut back mainly because I already have a huge collection and few new movies really appeal to me at all. I still seek out 3D versions of high -profile movies and have even bought way too many 4K versions/upgrades. I have never, EVER streamed a movie, even from Amazon as a Prime member. There are some titles on Amazon that are not otherwise available, so that is inevitable, but I never expect to pay additional for streaming services. Not having had time to watch much of my collection also dissuades me from frivolous purchases, which previously swelled my collection.

  17. Leslie Varley

    As I live in Japan I might have to wait months before an American movie I want to see will be released in the theaters here. So I will always buy the US Blu-Ray as it will get here before the its theatrical release (and still see it in the theater if I enjoyed the BR once released in the theater).

    Back to the question though, I still buy as many as I always have, but definitely more selective about what I buy as my collection has grown.

    • Is it usually cheaper to import U.S. releases anyway? I have seen movies on Amazon.JP going for upwards of $60-80 before shipping.

  18. Clark

    I don’t buy as many discs as before because distributors have given up on Blu-ray here in Brasil. There are no more players being released here, and some studios (like Universal) are only releasing movies on DVD. Can you believe that? You have a 4K TV and the only content you have to display your 4K capabilities are the Netflix originals. If you wanna buy a movie, like “Get Out” or “Lady Bird”… well, DVD only for you, pal!
    I still import a lot of movies, but only the ones I really care about. I don’t buy 20 movies a month, like I used to, because importing is really expensive. Also, “over time the size of my movie collection has become a burden. A significant percentage of the discs on my shelves have gone unwatched since I bought them”, like Josh said.
    I’m ashamed to admit that, if I want to see a movie for the first time, I download it. It’s so easy to find torrents in Full HD with 5.1 sound! I refuse to rent a digital copy (in plain HD) or to buy a DVD (you can’t rent DVDs here in Brazil anymore). So, the pirate life for me. If I like the movie, I’ll import it later.

  19. Mr Paul Jacob

    Adam,
    I notice you are also buying titles from specialist companies (Criterion, Eureka, Arrow, Indicator etc.).
    It seems that some great special editions are also increasingly being released as limited editions. These releases are aimed squarely at older (and yes, younger) cinephiles, who love the haptic quality of physical media. I think that is where the current trend lies. Here in the UK, one of the sole surviving physical media chain stores (HMV (including Fopp) almost went under. Fortunately, it was rescued by a Canadian vinyl enthusiast. Nonetheless we need to put our money where our players are and buy more from physical stores. Otherwise they WILL go the way of the Dodo. And we don’t want to be left in the sole clutches of a jungle-based online store

  20. Chris B

    Since upgrading to the 4K format, those have become the only discs I’m interested in buying as they offer a level of quality that isn’t available anywhere else. I use rentals and streaming for any other titles I’m interested in watching.

  21. Art A

    While the industry is pretty much giving up on it, I am still a fan of 3D and as long as I have a TV and DVD player capable of the display, I will continue to selectively go out of my way to buy 3D discs.

    Still buying 4K, particularly if Dolby Atmos is available, as once again, that’s the set up I have, and discs still beat anything currently streaming.

  22. I have had a change in buying habits and mostly debt free, so I buy more discs than before. I try to mostly keep 4K at the priority list. Having forced myself to buy an Oppo 4K player, and a Vizio P-Series 4K TV, I found myself ahead of where I thought I would be. I still get a small qty of DVDs as well, but Blu-ray still edge those out. You sound like me Josh with regards to is seeming a burden as the collection is too large. I removed most DVDs from the wall in the past and converted them to MKVs, and then boxed them up and stuck em in a closet. As I replace BDs with 4K discs, the BDs will find themselves in a box as well.

  23. William Henley

    I’ve cut way down, but its not because I have switched to Netflix or anything, its just that 1) I have almost all the catalog movies I could want 2) even if they did release 4k of them, I doubt if School of Rock or Camp Nowhere is going to look much better than what I have now (although there are some discs that the studios were just lazy on, and I will rip the disc, pull it into Adobe Premiere and do my own color correction, sharpening and DNR – think of every single catalogue Disney live action movie that was a DMC exclusive).

    There is ocassionally a new movie I will pick up, but those have trickled down to about half a dozen a year, and then I try to buy 4k.

    The bad thing about 3D is that I watch them so rarely, that I have to plan ahead and charge the glasses as they have been sitting for months, and I don’t want the battery dying in the middle of the movie. Oh, and unless I want to rip at half-resolution, you can’t really rip Blu-Ray as none of the streaming devices support Full HD SBS or OU,

    I have been ripping most of my discs – there seems to be a much greater chance that I will watch it if its ripped, due to the fact that I KNOW playback resume works on Plex.

    But the real reason I have slowed down is that my viewing habits have changed (like most other people on the list). Not due to money, but due to time. I actually also canceled my Netflix (for the first time in 20 years) and I had cut the cable years ago, and I finally said “Oh well” when my OTA Tivo shorted out. I got a Youtube Premium account – there are enough Youtubers that I like that it makes up about 95% of all of my media viewing. I got 10 minutes while I am getting ready for work – load up Linus Tech Tips. I want something light-hearted when I get home from work – load up The LaBrant Family. Want to laugh? Estonian Reacts to Oversimplified. Irish people Try American Whiskey. Watch the 8-Bit Guy retrobrite a Commodore. James and Mike play Bucky O’Hare. Want to learn about Quantum physics? Youtube. Want to learn about theology? Youtube. Want to know how to root your Android? Youtube. What happens at the event horizon of a black hole? Youtube. What to do if you only have a day in Insert City? Youtube! And many are in bite-sized 5 – 20 minute sizes!

    So yeah, it is not that I am streaming movies – it is that I am not really even watching movies anymore

  24. Rob

    Here in the UK physical media movies has taken a hammering with the BBFC cutting movies from Aquaman to Bumblebee so i’m just not buying them. If this trend continues of cutting movies just to give the companies the classification they want , i’m out of physical media and hope they stream the fuller American version on Netflix etc….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *