The Wall Street Journal Explains

Okay, I am a little behind in my Wall Street Journal reading, again. Which is basically my normal condition when taking the paper. So I have only now come across an article from September 24, 2020, that explains a little more about why it’s often hard to find movies you want to see on streaming services–Why Some Classic Films Still Aren’t Streaming, From ‘Jungle Fever’ to ‘Silkwood’.

Again, note that the “classics” here date back to the 1980s or the 1990s, which means the dark ages where the films were available on videocassette and/or DVD.

Back in 2016, a little before I was making predictions about how fast I would read the remainder of my books in The Executioner series, I lamented I could not find several movies I wanted to see on the streaming services of the day:

After reading a listicle about John Hughes’ Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I wanted to watch She’s Having A Baby because it’s the most adult of his coming-of-age comedies (and I plan to come of age sometime soon). But it’s not on Netflix nor Amazon Prime.

Then I got to thinking about funny Christmas movies my children might like to watch with me since White Christmas, Holiday Inn, The Bells of St. Mary’s, or The Bishop’s Wife are a little black-and-white for them, and they’re not old enough for Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, or Gremlins. So I checked Netflix and Amazon Prime, and again I was disappointed.

And that I joined a video store in 2017 because it had the DVD of a film I needed for a writing assignment:

Now, gentle reader, you might remember my December rant on the limited catalogs of streaming services (What I Want To Watch, When I Want To Watch It). I still feel that way, but I’m pretending to be frugal now. I had to watch Johnny Mnemonic for a writing assignment (which I read back in 2006), and of course, Amazon Prime and Netflix don’t offer it. My beautiful and sultry wife has a membership at the local video store, Family Video, so we went there to get a film for the boys and to see if the shop had Johnny Mnemonic. They did.

That was years ago. I said about streaming:

Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming are good when you want to watch something as they give you a lot to chose from. But I often do not want to sit down and watch something; I want to sit down and watch a particular film. So physical media still have a vital role in that. Much like the old independent video stores offered something other than the newest releases at Blockbuster.

That was back when you really had two streaming platforms to choose from. Now, every media company has its own twelve-buck-a-month service and is slowly reclaiming its library by letting licensing to Amazon and Netflix lapse. Which means everything that was available is still available streaming, but it’s spread over a rapidly widening set of subscription services.

Although a flack at Fandango says it’s only onesies and twosies that are not available, my experience has proven that the onesies and twosies and foursies and twelvesies coincide with what I want to watch. The newspaper explains why so many things are not available on any streaming source:

The causes of unstreamableness vary. For films made before digital distribution existed, it can be unclear who owns streaming privileges. Restrictions on digital use of the music in a film can hold it back. Some “unstreamables” are movies that have been shunned across all platforms, for one reason or another, like Disney’s “Song of the South,” with its racist stereotypes, and the last Woody Allen and Louis CK films, made by tarnished directors.

A film can also simply become buried in a company’s holdings. For those who want to release older films in new formats, hunting down rights holders can become a Watergate-like investigation. After decades of mergers and acquisitions, the corporate owner of a film may not even know it’s the owner.

So, as you might expect, I still look to buy DVDs and VHS cassettes at garage sales and whatnot and, when I get the idea that I want to watch a particular film, I order the physical medium on Amazon.

Also, I am a curmudgeon.

Thank you, that is all.

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