Friday the 29th is the last day Netflix will be mailing out discs for their mail order movie rental company and even though I live in a city, have reasonably good internet and access to a bunch of streaming channels, I’m still going to miss those red envelopes.
Here’s the thing: When Netflix dvd service started out, it was a great resource for people who
couldn’t get access to high speed internet. If you’re living out in the boonies, you might have dialup, but stream a whole and entire movie? No way. didn’t have a Blockbuster down the road.
Mail-order dvds were also a reasonable alternative to driving two hours to the nearest theater, or to see a movie that hadn’t even come to a theater in driving range.
Also, in the early days, they offered access to tons of obscure films. Before Netflix, you might be able to read about the Czech New Wave in a magazine, but you could only watch something like Valerie and Her Week of Wonders if you had an art house cinema in your city, were diligent about checking the schedule, and could get away from work or the kids to catch a showing.
Then: dvd.com came online. I could drop Valerie… into my queue and watch it at home. No worries.
Or, people might rave about Jodorowsky all over social media, prompting me to throw a disc into the queue, then turn it off and mail it back when we saw a man take a shit into a glass box.
Not for me, right? No big deal. Just mail it back.
But as broadband has spread around the country and new players have jumped into the streaming service, you can watch Valerie… any time you want from any number of services. It’s three bucks on Amazon right now, no art house calendar or disc-a-week mailer required. The Holy Mountain is four bucks (just in case you want to see that glass box).
Still, I didn’t want to ditch the discs.
I think everyone has heard stories of dvd subscribers who would receive a disc in the mail, think Eh, I’m not feeling it, then drop it on a shelf where it would sit for weeks.
Like people who paid for a gym membership but never actually worked out there, these were the most desirable customers. Me, I always wanted to be Netflix’s least profitable customer. When the disc arrived, we watched it that night. It didn’t matter if we were in the middle of a great series or whatever. The disc came in and went back out the next morning.
Because even though so many of these movies are streaming now, they still don’t get watched. We’re not going to take a break from Only Murders in the Building or Ted Lasso mid-season to stream Army of Shadows. That’s the kind of film you scroll past, with the Augustinian idea that yeah, you (I) really should watch a piece of landmark cinema, but not yet.
But my self-imposed rule on the discs didn’t allow for procrastination, not if we were going to get our money’s worth. Now that’s gone. “Film Friday” is the replacement idea, but we’ll see if we can stick to that.
Anyway, for weeks now Netflix has been saying that subscribers can keep the last disc they receive, and since there isn’t time to mail this one back and have it turned around, the one that arrived yesterday will be the one I’m keeping. Shin Godzilla, if you’re curious. I was a huge fan of Godzilla when I was tiny, but this was the first Godzilla film that I have genuinely enjoyed in decades. I plan to check out the special features and will add it to my rotation of Halloween discs.
Netflix has also said they’re planning to mail extra discs to subscribers, just to give them away. Maybe they’ll send ten. Maybe one. Maybe none. We’ll see if we get any. We’ve been subscribers for a long time, but only at the lowest one-disc-at-a-time level. I’ve dropped a few discs into our queue that I’d like to own, like the original Oldboy and the Criterion edition of the first Godzilla film, with that great commentary track. Also, my wife asked me to add Tarsem Singh’s The Fall and my son would like Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner movie.
I’m surprised they’re giving those discs away to subscribers. Are they hoping to keep people signed up until the very end? Or maybe they don’t have a viable buyer for all that physical media and are just planning to write it off.
It’s just too bad, because this was something I valued, and it’s being dumped as though all that value is gone. Those discs were just about the last thing that came in the mail that I was happy to receive.