Movies and shows can disappear in the digital age
The Future. If a movie or show gets deleted from the one streaming service it was on, did it even exist? That’s the question haunting filmmakers and audiences on the heels of Warner Bros. Discovery simply got rid of major titles from HBO Max. To ensure that one of their favorite movies or shows isn’t deleted from extinction, fans may reboot the art of collecting physical media in order to become a network of DIY archivists.
Stuck in An American Pickle
Audiences got a wake-up call when Warner Bros. Discovery decided to indefinitely shelve Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt and mysteriously deleted other HBO Max-exclusive movies (An American Pickle, Moonshot) and shows (Vinyl, Run) from its service.
- According to THR, those under 30 had never lived in a world where almost every title wasn’t right at their fingerprints — first with VHS and DVD, and then with digital rentals and streaming.
- Streaming was supposed to be the ultimate access point for film fans — everything would be available right at home. (That’s never entirely been the case, but it’s been close).
And until now, studios and streamers have always been in lock-step with that ethos, with the thinking being, “the more content available to audiences, the better.” But now, criticisms of “discoverability” and “clutter” are changing the conversation… to the detriment of Hollywood history.
To be fair, the Hollywood studios have never been particularly great at archiving or maintaining older titles (“old” as in not anything currently making cultural waves), leaving it to museums, archivists, and repertory houses to carry that burden.
- Speciality physical media labels like The Criterion Collection and Shout! Factory thrive on remastering titles it feels are cinematic classics.
- Martin Scorsese had made it one of his life missions to save old titles (especially international cinema) from extinction.
- And individual filmmakers have pushed for their streaming-exclusive projects to get some sort of physical release on the off-chance they get deleted in the future.
Maybe one-day Batgirl or Scoob! will be bootlegged and shared among the film community, not to make Warner Bros. Discovery lose money (they were shelved to be used as tax write-offs), but simply as proof to the hundreds if not thousands of creatives who spent years making them that their work will not be memory-holed.