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Sunday, 9 December 2012

We all know that the price of movies in physical form has plummeted in the past couple years. Even movies that are indisputably great can sometimes be found on BluRay for around $5. (That's how much my Terminator 2 BluRay cost, as I keep mentioning every time I invariably return to the subject of the cost of owning movies.)

But there are certain movies that remain pretty much as expensive as they were when they were first released. The one I'm thinking of today is Cars, which is now over six years old, but priced like it was brand new.

As Toy Story made it into our BluRay player for the second weekend in a row this weekend, I'm all the more eager to step up my plan that's been gestating for awhile, to diversify our collection of movies that are appropriate for kids. Specifically, to buy Cars for my son for Christmas. He'll turn 2 years and 4 months on Christmas day.

Cars seemed like a logical choice, because not only is it an absolute slam dunk choice for my son (we already own a Cars storybook that he loves), but it's a movie that I also really like. In fact, I ranked it 13th out of the 77 films I saw before my ranking deadline in 2006. Not only that, but the Cars franchise has room to grow. Neither my son nor myself (nor my wife, but that's a little less surprising) has seen Cars 2, so after we just can't stand Cars anymore but my son still requests it, Cars 2 will be waiting to provide us a change of scenery.

The thing is, Cars is probably one of the most profitable movies in the history of the medium, in terms of the demand to own it. I don't have any numbers to back that up, but there's a reason Pixar made Cars 2 when the original Cars didn't receive the usual praise directed at one of the studio's films (or win the Oscar for best animated feature, the only Pixar film not to do so since Monsters, Inc. -- except for the sequel, which wasn't even nominated). The reason is that kids frigging LOVE Cars, and the merchandise sells through the roof.

Why, then, would you discount something that sells so well?

Answer: You wouldn't.

So I can't just waltz into a store and pick up a DVD of Cars for $10. When I was at Target yesterday, the DVD was still $19.99, the BluRay still $29.99.

And I'm sorry, I'm not going to spend that much money on a movie for a 2-year-old.

Because it's different buying a present for a 2-year-old than for an adult, isn't it? The goal behind getting a present for your child is not to demonstrate how much money you spent on them, which, regrettably, is sometimes the goal with adults. (It's one of the reasons I don't mind paying full price for presents for adults -- I feel that on some level, the amount of money I spend on them is a measure of how much I care about them.) The goal with a kid is simply to deliver the present. You wouldn't care if you got it for free, as long as the kid received it and was happy with it.

I could never give an adult a gift I'd gotten for free -- I'd feel too guilty. Maybe as an additional throw-in gift, but not their only gift. I'd feel like it was some kind of a deception, a violation of the unspoken rules of gift giving. But kids don't think like that. They just care about the material results.

Which actually leads me to a potential solution to my problem, something I would never do with an adult but could easily do here: buy it used. Again, with a child, there isn't that moment when they remove the wrapping paper and make an immediate judgment about the condition of the present and what it might have cost. My son will just see a DVD with Lighting McQueen on the cover, and his eyes will light up.

I should pause here to note that Cars is by no means the only example of movies that retain their full value, even years after they've driven off the lot. I'd bet the whole Pixar catalogue rarely goes on sale, and there are probably other perennially successful children's titles (The Lion King, Shrek) that are always going to be near peak demand. But by being the most kid-oriented of its kind, Cars is probably a lot more in demand than, say, Wall-E. I wouldn't be surprised if I could waltz into certain stores and pick up a $10 Wall-E.

So yeah, maybe I need to pick up that $6.89 used Cars DVD on Amazon, because even on Amazon, I can't find a new one for any lower than $14.99.

What's the essential difference between Amazon's $14.99 and the $10 I was willing to spend if I found it at Target?

Well, to take it back to the beginning of this post, I could buy a BluRay of Terminator 2 for that difference. 

And then you'd still have to add in shipping.

So while my son is still young and hasn't yet developed an adult understanding of the do's and don'ts of exchanging presents, I'll give him hand-me-down movies just as I give him hand-me-down clothes.

And in the process, maybe I'll also hand down to him my love of movies.


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