The Business of Buying Blu-Rays

‘The only way to see a film’ Ridley Scott

Before the release of his film Prometheus, Ridley Scott wrote an article in the Huffington Post proclaiming that blu-ray was the ‘only way to see a film’.

Blu-ray is a twelve year old concept. It has been twelve years since the formation of the Blu-ray disc founding group (now known as the Blu-ray Disc Association); eleven years since Sony’s first demonstration of a blu-ray recorder; and eight years since Samsung unveiled their first blu-ray disc player. The format has seen off the likes of HD DVD to secure its place as the ultimate home-viewing experience (Jay Baruchel would tell you that the battle came down to gamers and porn).

But what about Netflix? No doubt, the online service has seen a meteoric rise over the past few years, with its cheap monthly subscription plan and well-received exclusives such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. It’s popularity cannot be taken away and, credit where credit is due, the media-streaming giant caters to a demographic that wants an easy, efficient and, most importantly, portable viewing experience. Netflix can be viewed from your computer, games console, tablet, iPhone and the traditional television.

That being said, Scott cannot see why there are so many who believe physical media is a dying breed, and there are legions of dedicated blu-ray collectors out there who would take his side. After all, it would take years, if not decades, to match the quality the blu-ray format provides without the need to insert a disc into a disc-tray.

This is not an article debating the benefits and downfalls of Netflix and the physical media. As a cinephile I am a fan of both services. I can swim in the blue of the blu-ray collection lining the walls of my home, while Netflix is my ever-reliable, go-to guy when the craving for Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead becomes too much.

No, this is the guide for any aspiring collectors who have turned up late to the party and finally decided to jump on the 1080p bandwagon.

First things first – my name is so and so and I’m a blu-ray addict. Admission is the first step to recovery.

Many people are often deterred by the myth that blu-ray DVDs are overly expensive. While that may have been true during the dawn of the era, it certainly isn’t the case now.

The Bargain Bin

300 (2006)

When the Samsung BD-P1000 first shipped in 2006, it cost a hefty $999.99 (enough to leave a sizeable hole in the average man’s bank account) and double the price of the Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player. However with eighty-four percent of films released by studios that year confirming their allegiance to blu-ray, it is easy to see the rapid decline in prices when the other BDA companies began to ship their own players. The blu-ray sales rocketed past their Toshiba counterpart which would see itself become the inevitable loser in the physical media war.

The films themselves followed a similar pattern. Hot on the heels of the first Samsung model were classics such as 50 First Dates, Hitch and A Knight’s Tale; costing $30 a unit. However, the launch day titles (much like the next-gen video game consoles) were uninspiring to say the least. Only ten were available at the time, though by the turn of the year, it had swelled to something closer to two hundred.

You could probably purchase those three films for about $4 if you looked in the right place. That is key here: the longer a movie has been on blu-ray, the less you will be able to buy it for. Although the price of new-releases has fallen significantly as well (you can pick up Pacific Rim for as little as $13), your best bet when starting your collection is to keep an eye on the bargain bins at your local supermarket or online retailer.

When I bought my first player back in 2011, there was a list of films I had to have on my shelf. District 9, 300 and Pan’s Labyrinth lingered at the top and I was sure I’d have to spend the best part of a measly weekly income to accommodate them. A short trip to the store later and I had all three for less than $12. With more and more blu-rays taking up shelf-space as time goes on, those must-have titles will dwindle down to a price that proves a sound investment when they ignite the pixels on your home cinema system.

If you don’t have to have it – don’t have it

It cannot be stressed enough. The price of new releases may have reduced since 2006 but spending $20-$25 on the latest blu-ray movie with the shiny slip cover or the beautiful cold touch of the limited edition steelbook packaging can still rob the avid collector blind

Can you really be a collector without any money to collect with?

The simple answer is no.

When you’re next in the local Best Buy or Walmart and you’re holding whatever Michael Bay is offering today, just think to yourself – do I really need to have this on my shelf? Or would I prefer to pick up three movies I love for the price of one that was … well, just okay? The odds are that film will see a massive drop in price before you know it, lending credence to the adage ‘slow and steady wins the race’.

So, put down the latest gross-out comedy, you don’t need to see those nipples and toilet jokes in high-definition just yet, do you? For every movie you somewhat enjoyed, there are ten better movies that you really admired just waiting to take up a cosy spot on your movie pile, for a fraction the price.

Or perhaps, you bought a film on release day, and you didn’t enjoy it as much as the first time round. You begin to look at it and wonder what The Smurfs is doing next to The Godfather trilogy (if this is the case, a serious organization of your movie collection is in order). You can take advantage of trade-in systems that reward you with cash or store-credit – which both help in the hunt for those elusive quality deals.

Read the Reviews

Another question you must ask yourself is this – will this film be worth the blu-ray upgrade? Will the viewing experience be bettered by the upgrade to 1080p and lossless audio? To be honest, I’m a sucker for picture quality and, as a personal rule, will no longer buy anything other than blu-ray. But there are some titles out there that become a nightmare to sit through once they’ve undergone the ‘restoration’ process.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

The original transfer of Full Metal Jacket was particularly bad, awash with an awful artificial grain. The same applies to the first Total Recall transfer which made Arnie look as plastic as the Barbie aisle in a toy store. Even Gladiator lost arrows somewhere along the production line.

Thankfully these titles have gone under the knife for a second time and come out smelling (and looking) like roses, but it is imperative to check the internet or your monthly film magazine to get an idea about picture and audio quality. While most films look fantastic on blu-ray, there are still some out there (American Psycho) that look, pure and simply, like dog shit.

However, every collection needs that one blu-ray to simply …

Show Off its Capabilities

Everybody has that one film that converted them to the blu-ray way of thinking and for any self-respecting collector passionate about their hobby, it is an unwritten law that you must have those ultra-impressive transfers shining on your shelf.

Avatar (2009)

It is widely believed that James Cameron’s Avatar is the pinnacle of the high-definition movie experience and it is hard to argue against the fact. The film looks mesmerizing, just as it did on the big-screen, and has often been the one I force upon visitors to justify my obsession. However, the film’s plot and script aren’t as enthralling as its visual effects, hampering the finished product .

For true lovers of cinema, the Taxi Driver blu-ray is the one to show your friends, capturing every dot of film grain and grime the original had. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is the perfect example of painstaking restoration at its most impressive. The sci-fi classic looks as though it was filmed ten years ago, let alone forty. Anything David Fincher has made, including Alien 3 (in fact, the entire Alien Anthology looks astounding in 1080p), is worth every penny spent. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Seven, in particular, make the most of the technology, and bear a washed-out, dirty patina, soaked in gloriously drab greys and blacks. His films have always made you feel grimy, but the accentuated colour palette of the blu-ray editions ensures that you’ll need a bath afterwards.

With technology expanding further every day and 3D and 4K televisions slowly integrating themselves into our home cinema systems, the capabilities of high-definition physical media can only climb to higher and higher heights. Blu-ray offers the best film experience outside of the movie theatre for film fans and usually revives the old classics in better shape than ever. Whether you’re dipping your toes in for the first time or building a mammoth collection, there has been no better time to invest. For all cinephiles, it needs reiterating, blu-ray is the ONLY way to see a film.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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A self-proclaimed 'cinephile' who spends too much time obsessing over an out-of-control film collection, I am a lover of all things imaginative.

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  1. Great advice for other blu-ray geeks like yourself! Another great article 🙂

  2. I used to be totally addicted to collecting films. It came a point when I was buying a min of 1 DVD a week and sometimes up to five. I have over 500 DVDs. Netflix has helped curb my addiction but it’s spread into other aspects of my life (collecting vinyl). I only own about 30 blu’s at the moment and I tend to pick and choose them carefully. Still now that the prices have come down I find my self contemplating a lot of purchases.

    • Dale Barham

      I worked out that since I’ve had my blu ray player, I’ve bought a blu ray movie every 2.5 days … I might need help!

      But that’s part of the fun I guess, finding the bargains and building the collection on a budget is so much more rewarding than just buying them all straight away. The thrill of the chase as it were!

    • Whenever I purchase DVD’s or BluRay’s, I’ve always considered the titles that I would enjoy but other members of my home would enjoy. I’ve movies on my list that I may not particular enjoy but for a raining day if a member of my family wants to pop in a bluray, I would have it. I have about maybe 2,000 titles I want and own about 100. I am getting there lol.

      • Dale Barham

        Keep at it! In my opinion, nothing gives me more satisfaction than having a movie for every occasion – and to see my blu-ray pile get bigger and bigger as the days pass!

  3. Naomi Watkins

    Great guide! I only tend to purchase films I like unfortunately my DVD collection is almost 100 and I’m slowly and painfully having to convert all my titles to Blu-Ray.

    • Dale Barham

      I’ve found that I can’t justify converting every DVD I have to blu-ray, however if I get the urge to watch it, then more often than not, I will end up double-dipping if it has the ‘rewatchability’ factor.

      Thank you for reading anyway and I hope you got something out of it!

  4. Mette Marie Kowalski

    Very helpful! I’m not ready to buy a BluRay player yet since I’ll be away for a year soon but when I come back and have enough money to spare, I’ll definitely consider doing it. My favorite advice of yours is the ‘If you don’t have to have it – don’t have it’. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to see American Pie in BluRay right?

    • Dale Barham

      Haha thanks for reading. I hope I’ve swayed you to think about starting a collection anyway, it does take a lot of time so it is best to wait. And, to be fair, you’d be surprised how good some films look in blu ray, maybe not American Pie, but I remember thinking Tropic Thunder looked pretty amazing in high-def.

  5. I just download and save everything on hard drive storages.

    • Dale Barham

      Whatever works for you, man. I spend way too much on films but I’m far too committed to pirate any of them.

  6. Kevin Licht

    How do you feel about the blu-ray’s with the digital copy included? I find myself avoiding the films that are only compatible with Ultraviolet.

    I find the transition to blu-ray interesting since the digital copies seemed to come around so quickly.

    • Dale Barham

      To be fair, if I have a blu-ray which has the digital copy included, I tend to give it to a friend. If I’m watching a film, I want it to be in the highest quality possible, which is something only my blu-player can offer.

  7. My wife says as long as i don’t spend the grocery money…she doesn’t care how much discs I buy 🙂

  8. How Newman

    I wish they will bring these to BRay:
    Zatoichi 1-25
    Police Story 1-3(the HK ones are just upscaled DVDs)

    • Dale Barham

      I believe that all of the Zatoichi series are available on blu-ray, as of November last year. The price is a bit steep of course.

  9. There are loads of classic sci-fi/horror that I would like restored and in BD…but it will never come to pass. Many never made it to DVD, let alone to be on BD.

  10. Love blu-ray. Before I got married me and my husband went to the movies a lot but nowadays, we buy and watch and rewatch.

  11. Shane Mendez

    This is great. I thought I was late to the Blu-ray party when I bought an HDTV and a BD player in 2011. I’m always eager to preach the gospel of BD to people who are interested. I always underscore the importance of the HDTV picture settings. If those aren’t calibrated even slightly, the beauty of Blu-ray–and all HD, really–is lost!

    • Dale Barham

      And now you’ve pointed out something I coulda mentioned in the article! I agree completely with the calibrated thing, but what is great is you can search any TV model into google and you’ll find the figures for the perfect calibration 😀

      Thanks for reading, really appreciate it!

  12. Softdrink

    I was an earlyish adopter of Blu-Ray in the form of an early model PS3 console. At the time, I didn’t have access to an HDTV, so I wasn’t readily able to appreciate the differences in quality. But in the years since, it has served me admirably as my displays improved, and now the only things I buy on DVD are those which are impossible — or impractical — to find in BD. Really an excellent format. As a college student, I don’t really have the space for a large and impressive collection, but I am well satisfied with what I do have, and converted my family to BD quite some time ago.

    • Dale Barham

      I’ve tried to convert the family, but they just can’t see the attraction! And don’t worry, I’m a college student, when there’s blu ray deals involved, you’ll always find space!

  13. I recently bought a blu-ray player. I feel as though it is getting harder and harder to realize the different between display because almost everything is in high definition. I think that pretty soon, blu-rays will not be used, but it’s a good place to start to getting high def in your home.

    • Dale Barham

      I understand what you mean, 4K will be replacing blu rays before we know it, I’m already looking at saving for a 4K television haha!

      • Shane Mendez

        I’m not so sure just yet. The technology isn’t quite there for 4K Blu-ray. A 4K disc would require a lot of space or 4 layers or something that just isn’t here. Plus streaming true 4K video will be a massive data problem for much of the US ISPs.

  14. My family recently bought all 47″ + TVs for the house, and if we don’t have a Blu-ray player sitting next to it, we have an upscaling DVD player at least. We own a fair share of both DVDs and Blu-rays, but I find that regular DVDs are more convenient since the Blu-ray players are with the TVs that are always occupied. I am more inclined to watch a regular DVD because it is convenient. If I had blu-rays in every room of the house, that’s a different story.
    There is only one Blu-ray that I have appreciated more than any other: Avatar.
    Many blockbusters tend to be dark (and not just thematically, cinematically) — Sweeney Todd, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Harry Potter — and Blu Ray doesn’t really make a difference because you can hardly see anything /anyway/. Animated movies are generally not worth buying the Blu-ray because they’re animated — how much better can that get? The definition of live action movies is much more apparent when switching between DVD and blu-ray.

  15. I was originally against blu-ray when it first appeared. My thought was that it didn’t help the film in any way. My viewing would be just as enjoyable as with DVD. Then Star Wars came out on blu-ray. That changed everything. I knew i had to have it and soon I was buying all of my movies on blu-ray. I’ve really grown to love them and I see them as the best source of developing a collection.

  16. Good guide, you are right Taxi Driver 4K Remastered is an absolutly gem. I own a samsung 4K + 3d Telection. Anyway, I live in Australia mate and don’t have the flexibility of getting netflix or all the other nice high def streaming subscriptions, so the blu-ray addiction is a little bit more justified on my part. Mate, I buy almost 20 blu-rays a week. In fact I have a total of 30 blu-rays delivered to my door today fron,,,,, and all at once. I have definately reached an addiction status, as I have accumulated more than 200 box sets, 100 Blu-ray Steelbooks, 20 Criterion collection, 10 complete TV Shows, 50 Blu-Ray Digibooks, over 80 limited edition anniversary Blu-Ray’s with exclusive memorabilia and not to mention I own every single movie within the top 250 IMDB rated Movies on blu-ray.

    • Silly typo. I meant Smasung 4k + 3d Television, also has voice control and webcam lol

  17. I recall that the computer technology department store Best Buy used a prediction market to determine what home movie experience would be the best bet about 15-20 years ago. That prediction market predicted Blu-Ray would triumph over HD DVD in the medium term. Circuit City (a similar store model) gambled on the less-cumbersome HD DVD. Today Best Buy is doing fairly well and no one younger than 25 has even heard of Circuit City (I believe they went Bankrupt (Ch. 13- Liquidation)).

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