A Very Long Wait: a look at today’s movie rental industry.

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Posted November 27, 2014 by in
For better or for worse, everything is going to the clouds, including movies and television programs.  Modern consumers want entertainment now, and streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and others provide that.
     One day, movie-lovers and film connoisseurs will be able to watch anything at any time for a reasonable, affordable price—possibly even for free.  But we aren’t there yet.  Far from it, actually.
     We are now in an awkward transition phase, when certain movies aren’t available on DVD anymore, but haven’t made it to flat-fee based streaming services yet.
     Earlier this week, I discovered a notification on my Netflix DVD Queue page that I haven’t seen before since using their service back in July of 2008.  The message stated that certain titles would no longer be available, such as Sons and LoversA Thousand ClownsLooking for Mr. GoodbarWild in the StreetsMadam Rosa, and Inchon.
     Let’s take a look at Sons and Lovers.  An acclaimed film, it won the Academy Award for best Black & White Cinematography for Freddie Francis.  Not only that, it was nominated for Best Picture, as well as Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director—but Netflix no longer carries it, and good luck finding something like that in a Redbox kiosk.
     Of course, Amazon Instant Video offers movies a la carte, including Sons and Lovers.  However, a film fanatic can watch a movie a day fairly easily, for research or just for fun, but that can be cost prohibitive for some, and is a bad value next to the flat fee of Netflix or Hulu Plus.
     Hulu Plus is a strange option.  On the one hand, they have many Criterion Collection films.  However, much of their library is composed of straight-to-DVD filler.  There isn’t much middle-ground, so between it and Netflix Streaming, there’s still a gulf of titles unavailable online.
     Consequently, we are not at whatever you want, whenever you want.  Right now, we’re at what’s available, when it’s available.  Licenses to stream titles come and go.  Awhile back, Ridley Scott’s Black Rain was available for streaming, and on DVD and Blu-Ray.  At the time of this writing, Black Rain is not available as a streaming title, and as a DVD title, its availability is listed as “very long wait.”
     I recently put George Lucas’s dystopian masterpiece THX-1138 at the top of my Netflix DVD queue.  It’s availability was also designated as “very long wait.”  They weren’t kidding—I waited over 8 weeks for it.  At one point, I counted 70 films in my queue with a wait time like that, and another 60 were marked as “saved.”
     Saved means straight-up unavailable for the time being.  Sons and Lovers was at one point listed as “saved.”  And look what happened to it.  It’s gone.  There are 60 titles in my queue with such a designation.  What will be there fate?
     How long will it take for the businesses that function as for-profit film libraries to upload thousands upon thousands of older but enduring titles—classics, foreign films, indie hits— from physical mediums to an electronic medium, to the cloud itself.  Will it be…a very long wait?

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.

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