My eldest and I had a movie night the other night and ended up scouring the best streaming services for zombie films. Between watching (and playing) The Last of Us and between that and watching The Walking Dead my eldest has become a huge fan of films where people get their brains eaten. What could be more perfect than 28 Days Later, the film that helped resurrect the zombie genre?
So we fired up the apps and 28 Days Later wasn't there. It wasn't on Amazon Prime Video, nor on Now TV. It's not in the purchase or rental bits of Apple TV or the Google Play Store either. I checked in with Justwatch, and it tells me that right now for UK film fans like me, 28 Days Later isn't available to stream or legally download for love nor money.
It's available on DVD and Blu-Ray, though. And I'm starting to think that for films you really like, Blu-Ray is the much better format if you're planning to buy rather than rent.
You can't stream Spice World
In the end we gave up on zombie films and decided to go for some comedy instead. We decided that silly, gag-packed madness would be just the thing, and as my eldest really loved Airplane! I got quite excited. "Have you seen Police Squad?" My eldest had not. So I confidently said "Police Squad" into my Apple TV remote and got zero results.
I checked with Justwatch again. "Police Squad! is not available for streaming." It turns out that other classics aren't either, such as The Abyss. And, er, Spice World.
To be fair, Spice World isn't on Blu-Ray either. I can't imagine the demand for a higher quality version of a pretty low quality movie is huge. But it's pretty clear that if you're buying a movie you think you're going to want to watch again, or inflict on the kids, then streams and downloads aren't always the best option. Licenses change, films disappear, and just because you bought a download doesn't mean you'll necessarily be able to access that download for years to come. Provided you look after them, discs endure and don't need to get permission from a far-away server before you can watch them.
There are some film geek reasons to go specifically for Blu-Ray too. Their audio isn't compressed like the audio in streams and many downloads, so you get better surround sound – something that's worthwhile if you have the best soundbars or best AV receivers. The discs come with various goodies to extend your enjoyment. The visual quality of digital downloads can vary quite considerably depending on where you get them from. And last but not least, you can't buy downloads second-hand but in good condition on eBay.
I know what you're thinking. Surely the days of physical media are numbered? And in best Police Squad style I'd say: no, I don't think they are, not for a long time anyway. And don't call me Shirley.