Laserdisc Collectors - Ode to My Laser disc Collection
In January of 2005, I sold off fairly extensive laserdisc collection for a paltry $300. Afterwards, I wrote up this post and shared it with some friends of mine as part of the "letting go" process. If you were once a laserdisc collector, I'm sure you will understand. If you weren't, it will make no sense at all to have been so attached.
I got into home theater shortly after returning home from Australia in 1994. I'd just spent most of the previous five years living without a television, but after finding an apartment in Boston one of my first purchases was a big screen television. It was a Panasonic, 35-inches. It was a really fabulous television set and my father is still making great use of it today. My next purchase was a Mitsubishi S-VHS VCR. I bought it at Tweeter and it cost me about $1000. It had one head! But it was very high end. *g*
Shortly after buying the tv and the VCR, I was turned onto the world of laserdiscs and home theater. I routinely bought every home theater magazine on the market and I spent months researching laserdisc players because I knew I wanted a really good one. I ended up buying a Pioneer CLD-D704, still to this day considered one of the best laserdisc players ever made. Its list price was around $1200, but I bought it online for $700. The laser disc player was the first thing I ever bought online.
I rented laserdiscs at Sight & Sound and I bought a lot of my discs there as well. Tower Records also sold laserdiscs. Columbia House had a laserdisc club, of which I was a member. Laserdiscs, on average, cost around $40, but I routinely dropped up to a $100 on a single movie that had lots of special features and special packaging. At the time, I had a steady job, but I wasn't rich so every laserdisc purchase I made was something to think about. Spending that kind of money required a commitment and I rarely made blind buys. I usually bought movies I'd already seen in the movie theater and they were all movies I loved. Unlike my DVD collection, there wasn't a single movie in my laserdisc collection that I hadn't watched multiple times.
At the time I was still doing most of my research for high tech gadgetry in magazines. The internet didn't become a huge part of my gadget addiction enabling until I made the move to DVDs and discovered dvdtalk.com and reel.com. Still, I'd discovered a few audiophile forums where they also discussed home theater equipment. That's where I found out about the Pioneer laserdisc event at Paramount studios in Los Angeles. During my first year in Los Angeles, I went to the event and bought over $800 worth of laserdiscs. I was given a basic Pioneer laserdisc player as a gift with purchase and I sent that one home to my dad along with a bunch of movies.
As you can tell, I was deeply committed to my laserdisc collection. Each movie I bought was bought with love. This is in large part why it has taken me so long to dispose of my collection. It wasn't just the money that I'd invested in it, but the emotional component of buying those movies. A movie on laserdisc has heft to it. If you're a vinyl afficionado you can probably relate to it. 12x12 is a lot of room to show off fabulous artwork and with so many movies requiring two discs, the gatefold design allowed even more opportunity to display artwork from the films. Laserdiscs were a labor of love on the part of filmmakers as well. A lot of painstaking work went into the transfers on the best discs and, of course, laserdisc represented the birth of the audio commentary due to the ability to place multiple audio tracks on a disc. I always listened to audio commentaries on my laserdiscs because they were special, having been recorded by people who were real movie geeks and usually had lots of interesting things to say. I rarely listen to audio commentaries on my DVDs because there are so many of them and I just don't have the time to listen to a director describe what I'm seeing onscreen.
When DVD was introduced I didn't make the jump until they'd been on the market for a couple of years. I love gadgetry, but I have to say I've never really been an early adopter. I like to wait and see what is going to happen. And by the time DVDs were becoming really popular I'd already invested a great deal in laserdiscs and like most laserdisc afficionados I kind of looked down my nose at the upstart technology. But the writing was clearly on the wall: saserdisc prices were dropping; Tower stopped selling them; Columbia House closed their club. I knew when Dave's Video in Studio City decided to close their doors that it was all over.
About the time Dave's Video closed was about the time that I finally made the jump into DVD. The timing was right. It was the middle of the internet boom and for awhile you could buy DVDs at ridiculously low prices (The Matrix cost me $1.49). For awhile I was still spending as much time watching my laserdisc collection as I was watching DVDs, but eventually the ease of using DVD won out and I actually started duplicating purchases. After a year or two of buying DVDs, I eventually stopped watching my laserdiscs altogether, except for watching the Star Wars trilogy once or twice a year, or watching the theatrical cut of Blade Runner.
I would have made much more money selling my collection a few years ago because there were a lot more titles that hadn't been released on DVD yet, but I just couldn't let them go. Every time I'd sit down and start trying to catalog the collection, my emotional attachment and memories would come rushing back with incredible force and I'd throw a movie on and watch it. I'd remember how much I loved buying those discs. They were for film afficianados only. You couldn't buy laserdiscs at Walmart, y'know? You had to go out and look for them and track down the shops that carried them. With the exception of Tower Records, most laserdiscs were sold by specialty stores. There was one store in Dedham, Ma where I used to buy discs that also had a home theater set up in the back of the store and a couple of times a month I went there to watch movies with other laserdisc fans. We'd geek out about special features and the latest releases and discuss and argue over which discs were "reference" discs -- the type of disc you put on to impress your friends due to its superior video transfer and audio.
Basically, laserdiscs were a lifestyle. DVDs are just another commodity. Don't get me wrong, I love DVDs and I have many, but they are cheap and easy to buy, and I just know that I will never feel the same way about them that I did about buying my laserdiscs. Eventually though, you just have to let things go and let your memories suffice.
My Former Laserdisc Collection
12 Monkeys1941 Signature CollectionA Perfect WorldA Taste for KillingA Time to KillAbsolutely Fabulous Boxed Set (Season 1 & 2)Ace Ventura Pet DetectiveAlien Special Widescreen Collector's EditionAlien Widescreen EditionAliensAmazing Stories - The Mission, The Wedding RingApollo 13Basic Instinct Pioneer Special EditionBatman ForeverBlade Runner Director's CutBram Stoker's Dracula - Criterion CollectionBraveheartBull Durham Widescreen EditionChina MoonClear & Present DangerClose Encounters of the 3rd Kind - Criterion EditionColor of NightCompulsionCutting Edge - Japanese importDances with Wolves Director's CutDead Again Widescreen EditionDead Calm - Japanese importDie HardDisclosureDodge CityDouble ImpactDumb & DumberFatal Attraction Paramount Director's SeriesFerris Bueller's Day OffField of Dreams Signature CollectionFirst Wives ClubForever YoungGhostGhostbusters - Criterion CollectionGolden EyeHamlet (Mel Gibson)Hard TargetHeatHellraiser Special EditionHenry VHighlander Director's Cut Deluxe Widescreen Edition (Signed by Director)His Girl FridayImmortal BelovedIndiana Jones & the Last CrusadeInterview with the VampireJaws Signature CollectionJerry MaguireJFK Special Limited EditionJurassic ParkKnight MovesL.A. ConfidentialLethal WeaponLethal Weapon 2Lethal Weapon 3Liar Liar Signature CollectionLord of Illusions Special EditionMad Max Beyond ThunderdomeMan without a FaceMaverickMercury RisingMilk MoneyMission ImpossibleNature of the BeastNecessary RoughnessNellNo Way Out Widescreen EditionNomadsNowhere to RunOperation Dumbo DropPatriot GamesPresumed InnocentPrincess Bride - Criterion EditionPulp FictionQueen ChristinaQuiz ShowRaiders of the Lost ArkRed RiverRevengeRobin Hood, Prince of ThievesRobocop - CriterionRosencrantz & Guildenstern Are DeadSabrina (Harrison Ford)Schindler's List Special Edition (no book)Sea of LoveSilverado Criterion CollectionSlipping into DarknessSpeedStargateStrange Days Widescreen EditionStriking DistanceTerminator 2 Special EditionThe 4th manThe Abyss Special EditionThe Big EasyThe BodyguardThe CrowThe English Patient - Criterion EditionThe ExorcistThe Fifth Element Deluxe Widescreen EditionThe FugitiveThe Ghost & the DarknessThe Good MotherThe GunrunnerThe QuestThe Road Warrior (remastered)The SaintThe Silver StallionThe TerminatorThe UntouchablesThe Year of Living DangerouslyThelma & LouiseTime CopTin CupTop GunTrue LiesTwilight ManTwo Evil EyesVampire in BrooklynWar of the Roses Special Collector's EditionWaterloo BridgeWaterworldWuthering Heights (Ralph Fiennes)Wyatt Earp