Your Movie Collection: On A Shelf, Or On A Server?

Kevin Bonds is exactly the kind of collector the movie studios built their DVD business on. He figures he has 3,000 titles in his spacious, comfortable home in Clinton, Md. It includes complete series of Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix, Star Wars and Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection. There are also what he calls "chick flicks" for his wife, starring Julia Roberts, Goldie Hawn and Tyler Perry.

"I think studios would love to have more of him," says Russ Crupnick, who studies the entertainment industry for the NPD Group. He says studios and retailers make more money when people like Bonds buy DVDs rather than rent them. But DVD sales have dropped off dramatically in recent years.

"Consumers are increasingly saying, 'Do I really have to own this when I can have access to it as often as I want through a rental or on demand?' " Crupnick explains.

The studios are adapting. They're developing online services in which people pay to have Internet access to videos on servers. Most of the studios are part of a consortium — along with retailers such as Best Buy and hardware makers such as Toshiba — that is working to come up with specs for a system. It's called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem. Disney's rival venture has a much catchier name: Keychest.

But buying access to movies that are stored in the cloud is nothing like the rows and rows of shelves Bonds has in his basement. Take the time Bonds lent DVDs to his colleagues right before a massive snowstorm.

"When I knew we were all going to be on lockdown I put a bunch of DVDs in a box," he says. "I took them to my co-workers and let them pick out what they wanted so they would have something to watch while they were snowed in."

"If you want that level of portability or flexibility you still need — for the moment — the physical format," says Crupnick. He doesn't think DVDs will ever go away entirely. Increasingly, though, personal video collections will be tethered to a server in the cloud. But not Bonds' collection.

"Digital downloads don't mean anything to me," Bonds says. "I believe in the collection displayed for the world to see."

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