Struan Sutherland is a self-described “movie guy.”
He began collecting movies on VHS as a young person. Now, as an adult, he collects DVDs — and estimates that he owns about 500 of them. He’d own quite a number of more, he says, except that he sells or gives away some movies he not likes.
“I’ve all the time liked the concept of owning the flicks I like; those that I need to look at over and yet again,” said Sutherland, 40, from his home in Halifax.
“Things come and go from streaming, so it’s nicer to simply own the flicks that you simply form of discover most with.”
It’s a sense increasingly shared by consumers and collectors across Canada. After years of digitizing all the things, individuals are rediscovering the worth of physical assets. DVDs, vinyl records and film cameras are all experiencing a renaissance. Even cassette tapes are making a comeback.
Last yr, for the second yr in a row, vinyl albums outsold CD albums within the within the U.S., Rolling Stone reported in January (and the manufacturers are struggling to maintain pace with the expansion). By way of photography, Kodak said in 2022 that it “cannot sustain” with the demand for film.
And while DVD sales have been in decline for a decade, Richard Lachman, an associate professor within the RTA School of Media at Toronto Metropolitan University, notes that they are now declining “more slowly.”
There are a lot of aspects that could possibly be contributing to the resurgence of physical media, from disenchantment with streaming services to eager for a physical (versus virtual) object, said Lachman.
“More individuals are spending rather a lot more time consuming media at home. They usually’re constructing rooms, or are collecting indirectly. And DVDs are physical objects. They give the impression of being nice in a room,” Lachman said.
“The physicality of it is an element of the enjoyment you are getting from the fandom.”
‘I’m the algorithm’
In an old limestone constructing in Kingston, Ont., tucked between a brew pub and a hotel parking garage, is a DVD rental store that has managed to survive while so many others across the country have not.
Chain stores Blockbuster and Rogers Video shuttered within the mid-2010s, for example, as customers moved to streaming and video-on-demand services. And in its 2022 report on Canada’s DVD, game and video rental market, industry research company IBISWorld noted that profits have decreased 11.8 per cent since 2017.
“The industry is in a state of severe and prolonged decline,” the report said.
But Classic Video boasts greater than 50,000 DVDs and Blu-rays, and a loyal customer base that has been strolling into the shop just off the downtown waterfront for greater than 35 years.
While he admits it has been a challenge, owner Tom Ivison says he believes Classic Video has stayed in business due to inventory that his customers cannot find on streaming services. As an illustration, he says, the most well-liked sections (after recent releases, in fact), are the British section and the horror section.
“There’s a number of product here not available online. And there aren’t many other avenues to access that programming, and that definitely brings in people,” Ivison said.
Standing at the shop’s front desk, which he calls the nucleus of the shop, Ivison says there’s something else his shop offers that streaming doesn’t: a human being.
“In a weird way, I’m the algorithm here at the shop,” he said.
“Using a streaming service, it’s more data collection by way of what someone may watch. I even have to know my customers and have a way of what they will probably want to watch or not want to look at. That is essential.”
Lachman noted that we’re currently in a “rather more chaotic” streaming marketplace than even just a number of years ago. Between Netflix, Apple TV+, Crave, Hulu and Disney+ (simply to name a number of), there’s more alternative, more costs and more complexity.
“You may have two seasons on one streaming platform, two seasons on one other streaming platform, after which they disappear in a yr when the rights agreements change,” Lachman said.
“So when you’re a fan of that series, you purchase it.”
Vinyl can barely sustain with demand
As for vinyl, demand for records has been growing in double-digits for greater than a decade, the Associated Press reported last yr. In consequence, dozens of record-pressing factories have been built to try to fulfill demand in North America — and it’s still not enough.
Now, as a younger generation buys turntables, some recording artists like Adele, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles have been moving to vinyl. Some have even accused Adele of causing the vinyl manufacturing delays when she released her album 30 to vinyl in 2021, although industry experts noted on the time that the issues plaguing the pressing industry weren’t recent.
In Toronto, Jeff Barber, the owner of music shop Sonic Boom, notes that while the resurgence of vinyl is not necessarily recent, the pandemic took it to a different level.
“We began selling an increasing number of turntables, speakers, and in step with that, a heck of rather a lot more records,” Barber said.
Since then, the store’s clientele has turn out to be rather more diverse, he said, with a number of younger female customers buying records. Now, it’s normal to have 15-year olds coming in to purchase all the things from old re-issues to recent releases, Barber said.
As an instance that eclectic mix, the shop’s top sellers last yr included American rappers Tyler, the Creator and Kendrick Lamar, Fleetwood Mac’s classic 1977 album Rumours, and in fact, Taylor Swift.
He credits nostalgia (for the older buyers) and maybe a technological backlash (for the younger buyers) for vinyl’s popularity. And it is not just vinyl, he said, but CDs are popular again, too, and it doesn’t stop there.
“We will barely keep cassettes in stock,” Barber said. “They sell like crazy.”
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He notes that a few of his younger customers just want physical mementos of the artists they enjoy — something they can purchase, hold of their hands, and collect. Records, CDs and cassette tapes fit that bill.
And while it’s fun to hearken to music, it is not necessarily fun to stream it, Barber added. But going home and putting a record on the turntable will not be only fun, he said, it is also ritualistic.
“There’s something concerning the process that engages you with the music more.”
Lots of the videos posted compare photos taken on an iPhone with photos taken on film, with the latter showing more stylistic, nostalgic-looking shots. One video with greater than two million views simply compares two shots taken off the side of a ship.
One other six-second video with greater than 441,600 views shows a young, female photographer taking an image of film using her film camera.
Lackman says it’s a mixture of nostalgia and magnificence that is driving film’s popularity with a younger generation. On Instagram, where there are 12.4 million #FilmCamera posts; people post images of all the things from ice cream stands and moody beaches to their pets and parties.
“Film is more fun,” one young user wrote on Instagram in a post where she is promoting a pair of sunglasses.
Using film also just gives a way of being really into something; of going the additional mile, Lachman said.
“Digital photography is so effortless, really easy, so surrounding you, that with the ability to pause and take time for something becomes something that offers pleasure. It gives joy.”