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Titanic: Voyage To The Past

Why 'Titanic' Is So Hard To Find

Titanic on DVD.
Zoe Chace/NPR

I'm working on a radio story about the sinking of the Titanic, and I need to grab a few audio clips from the movie. But it turns out the movie is ridiculously hard to find right now.

I couldn't get it on streaming on Netflix or Amazon. It wasn't available on iTunes. They didn't have it at the Barnes and Nobles or Best Buy near the office. The waiting list to check it out from the New York Public Library is months long. Three DVD rental places in Manhattan said they didn't have it.

I found what may be the last copy in Manhattan at Alan's Alley, an old-school video shop with dirty carpet and a cat sleeping on a chair.

Why is one of the most popular movies of all time so hard to find?

Because Paramount pulled it off the shelves in January of 2010. The studio doesn't want you to buy the DVD — yet.

Titanic is being re-released in the theaters this week (Titanic 3-D!).

It's common for studios to scrub the world of old DVDs (and get rid of streaming options) when movies are released, according to David Poland of Movie City News.

This accomplishes a couple things. It gets people to shell out to see the movie in the theater; and it drives sales of the new, jazzed-up DVD after the movie has left the theater.

The same thing happened when Star Wars was re-released, Poland says. And Disney has been doing this since the VHS era.

"They'd re-release 'Pinocchio,' say, to theaters for a month, then release the VHS with a 'limited time' warning, then deep-six the title for seven years."