As the saying goes, you never forget your first time. Let’s take a trip down Home Video Memory Lane in this week’s Roundtable. What was the first Blu-ray disc you purchased after getting a Blu-ray player? How about your first DVD? If you’d like, we’ll also include VHS, Laserdisc, or any other video formats you may have acquired over the years.
While I had a bunch of VHS tapes back in the day, they were mostly stuff I’d recorded off the air. I didn’t start to think of myself as a serious videophile until college, when I had access to a Laserdisc player as part of my work-study job. Because I was a poor college student, I couldn’t afford to buy movies at the time. Fortunately, there was an LD rental shop with a great selection just off campus. The first discs I rented were a double-bill of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘In the Line of Fire’, both letterboxed to their full 2.35:1 aspect ratios, which was unheard of on VHS. I was immediately hooked.
After graduation, the future Mrs. Z bought me my own Laserdisc player for Christmas. I remember making a trip out to the (now-defunct) Lechmere store at the Cambridgeside Galleria in Boston, where I picked up copies of ‘Short Cuts’ and ‘In the Name of the Father’ on sale.
When the DVD revolution came, like most people who were part of it, my first DVD purchase was ‘Blade Runner’. Although many of the early DVDs were barely distinguishable from Laserdisc (and often worse), this one was frequently cited as a notable improvement over the hazy LD transfer. Watching on my 27″ TV, I agreed at the time. Revisiting that same disc years later revealed it to be a digital compression nightmare that’s unwatchable on a large screen. It’s amazing how our standards have risen.
During the high-def format war, I was an immediate early adopter of both formats at release. After receiving my HD DVD player, I had to call around to all the local Best Buy stores until I found one that had a copy of ‘Serenity‘ in stock. I then received the other launch titles (‘The Last Samurai‘, ‘Million Dollar Baby‘ and [gag] ‘The Phantom of the Opera‘) as review screeners soon afterwards. Although a couple of these titles (namely ‘Samurai’ and ‘Phantom’) I would never have chosen to own otherwise, the discs certainly all looked great.
As many here will recall, the Blu-ray product launch was pretty much a gigantic clusterfuck out of the gate. I picked up my first player (the total p.o.s. Samsung BD-P1000, absurdly priced at $999) at Best Buy on Day 1, along with a selection of those notoriously terrible-looking launch titles like ‘The Fifth Element‘ and ‘House of Flying Daggers‘. The best disc of the initial wave was ‘The Terminator‘, which was virtually indistinguishable in quality from the DVD edition upconverted. What a total disaster! Blu-ray looked like it was doomed. It took almost a year for the format to turn itself around. Fortunately, it eventually did. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’m not really sure why I remember this more than twenty-seven years later, but when my family first dove into Laserdisc in 1984, our first two titles were ‘Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn’ and a Fonzie-hosted PSA called ‘Strong Kids, Safe Kids’. The PSA about child abuse/abduction was my father’s way of trying to justify buying that Pioneer LD-700 (which…again, why do I remember that?). Y’know, so he could say that he shelled out all that cash for the kids. ‘Strong Kids, Safe Kids’ turned out to be one of the most jaw-droppingly ridiculous things ever, and there are excerpts of it floating around on YouTube if you want to bask in its glory. I can’t guess why my dad grabbed up ‘Metalstorm’ out of every movie that was on Laserdisc at the time, but if you were look at my own movie collection all these years later, you can kind of tell that it runs in the family.
My other firsts aren’t all that interesting. Back in the glory dot-com days of 1999, I started buying DVDs several months before I picked up a player, just because they were so absurdly cheap. I think I had twenty-something discs before my first DVD player showed up in the mail. My first two were ‘Cube’ and ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’. I’d just recently rented ‘Cube’ on VHS and really dug it. And ‘Austin Powers’…I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
My first HD DVD was ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, and… No, no, hear me out. I bought the very first HD DVD player that was out there. Only three titles were available on Day One, and none of the stores around me had ‘Serenity’. So, my choices were limited to ‘Phantom of the Opera’ or ‘The Last Samurai’. More than five years later, I’ve still never watched more than a couple minutes of the movie.
The first Blu-ray disc I watched was ‘Casino Royale‘, although I had ‘Immortal Beloved‘ in the mail to me before then. I’ll let you count whichever one you want as the first. No real stories there; just “Oh, I should watch that.” I might’ve thought ‘Immortal Beloved’ was about vampires rather than Beethoven, but I probably shouldn’t admit to that.
I was one of the early adopters for DVD back in the day, when the players cost upwards of $700 and the selection of titles was only about fifty or so (at least here in Canada anyway). I kinda knew the manager at the store, so when I bought the machine, he said that I could pick any three movies I wanted. I remember picking ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’, ‘Reservoir Dogs’, and ‘Goodfellas’. I actually had never seen any of them before and unintentionally kicked off one of the most ultra-violent weekends I’ve ever had.
On the high-definition front, I owned an HD-DVD player first. It came with ‘300‘ and ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift‘ in the box. I’m not sure why exactly, but I also ended up buying ‘Disturbia‘ at the same time.
I didn’t get my Blu-ray player until a couple of years later. I don’t believe that player came with any movies (although it might have had some mail-in offers). I remember that my first Blu-ray was ‘Apocalypto‘, because I’d heard that it had great audio and video quality, and I wasn’t disappointed. When I upgraded to 3D, my package deal came with ‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – 3D‘, ‘Coraline – 3D‘, and ‘Avatar – 3D‘. However, I already had ‘A Christmas Carol – 3D‘ that I picked up about a month prior for a really great price.
I can’t remember which VHS I first bought, but I know that my first DVDs were ‘Dogma’ and ‘Mallrats’. Obviously, back then I didn’t think Kevin Smith was as much of a whiny, loud mouthed hypocritical attention whore hack as I do now. My first HD DVD was ‘Batman Begins‘, because it wasn’t on Blu-ray at the time, while my first Blu was ‘Pearl Harbor‘. Yes, that ‘Pearl Harbor’. I didn’t see it in theaters or on DVD, and I said screw it, since I like WWII movies so much. That, and it was financed by my Christmas bonus check (along with the Playstation 3 to watch it on), so it wasn’t all that much of a risk.
M. Enois Duarte
When DVD released in the summer of 1997, I was an immediate adopter. I bought my first player for around $400 – a Toshiba that a friend of mine still uses to this day. I remember the selection being limited to IMAX features and a few titles from Warner Bros., and I recall my very first purchase being ‘Twister’ because I really wanted to try out the surround sound. By the end of the year, there were tons more to choose from, so I remember picking up ‘Austin Powers’. When DVD drives were released the following year, I also upgraded my PC immediately. My library quickly grew with ‘Dark City’, ‘Blade’ and a few others.
With the introduction of high-definition video discs, I made the jump fairly quickly as well. You can read about my HD DVD experience here. As for Blu-ray, I was a bit slower in accepting the format since early results were honestly garbage. I eventually bought a PlayStation 3 in November 2006 when things started to look more promising. Although I mostly rented discs from Netflix at first, I remember my first disc purchases were ‘Black Hawk Down‘, ‘Monster House‘ and the terrible, now-discontinued ‘Fifth Element’ BD. A couple months later, it grew with ‘Pearl Harbor’ (for the audio quality, I swear!), ‘Open Season‘ and ‘The Prestige‘. Since then, the library has grown incredibly large, and Blu-ray is finally revealing its true potential.
When I bought my DVD player, I also purchased ‘Contact’, ‘Starship Troopers’ and ‘Sphere’. If I’m not mistaken, there was some sort of deal if you bought three titles with the player. The same went for Blu-ray. I got my PS3 from Target. If you bought two Sony Blu-rays, they gave you a $50 gift card on your way out, so I bought ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Across the Universe‘.
My family didn’t get a VCR until much, much later than a lot of folks. We used to rent huge VHS machines from the video rental stores. They came in big plastic suitcase-style housings. Actually, in New Mexico, they used to come in actual suitcases stuffed with foam. When we moved to Massachusetts, we finally bought our own player. The first movie I got was the VHS release of ‘Home Alone’. That tape got played plenty.
My first DVD was ‘Austin Powers’, and my first Blu-ray was ‘Casino Royale’.
Ah, memories! Tell us in the Comments about the first movies you bought for each video format you’ve owned.