$30/Month Thrifted DVD Collection: Month One – The First Sixteen Finds

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This is part one of a 12-part series on my experience re-building my physical film collection in response to streaming fatigue. I’m giving myself a $30/month budget for curating a new personal movie collection from thrift stores. Read the introductory post and follow along here on Retro Chronicle.

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The first month of this experiment came with limited expectations. After three eBay purchases as well as visits to one thrift store, a community book shelf, and one garage sale in my neighborhood, I kickstarted my new DVD collection with 16 films— and very little focus or strategy towards curating with a specific genre, subject, or creator in mind. But this was always going to be a vibes-based experiment, as I experiment, make mistakes, and try to make sense of my own tastes and curiosity.

eBay: M. Night Shyamalan’s Suspense Thriller 3-Movie Collection ($13.63)

My first acquisition for this experiment was a box set that I cherished as a child but must have gotten rid of in recent years. Shyamalan’s first three features were released together as a Blu-ray set, but only the DVD set was ever released in the U.S. After these three, “The Village,” “Devil,” “The Buried Secrets of M. Night Shyamalan,” “The Visit,” and “Split” are the only ones I’m interested in revisiting. This is the first DVD acquisition of a specific director whose work I appreciate enough to develop its own mini-collection— despite wanting to acquire about only half of his filmography. Directors who I consider “auteur,” whose work is worthy of a deep-dive will likely get their own mini-collections through the next 11 months.

via GIPHY

Community Bookshelf: “Amélie,” “Holes” and “Armageddon” (FREE)

There is a community bookshelf (sometimes called tiny libraries) near my work that usually only has books. This particular visit, there was a row of about 15 DVDs. Of the ones I sifted through, I found three that I was interested in adding to the collection. I happened to be actively looking for “Holes,” which I re-watched within weeks (it holds up great!). “Amélie” is a film I’d never seen, but I was sold on the slipcover and jampacked bonus features. “Armageddon” marks my first Criterion DVD, although I have about 30 on Blu-ray. I tried re-watching “Armageddon,” but was surprised how terrible it’s aged even with my tampered expectations. I have no idea how it received a Criterion release.

eBay: “The Foot Fist Way,” “Chasing Amy” and “Rushmore” ($9.98)

My partner and I had recently finished watching the entirety of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and decided to finally go back and watch all three of Danny McBride’s HBO series, in order starting with “East Bound and Down.” Wanting to dive deeper into the McBride catalog, I discovered his breakthrough role in an indie comedy wherein he works at a strip mall dojo. I popped onto eBay and discovered a store/seller (link) that sells DVDs for around $4 each with free shipping, plus an ongoing Buy Two, Get One Free sale. With shipping and taxes, this still comes out to less than $10 for 3 DVDs shipped, meaning I could potentially score 9 DVDs each month on my budget without leaving the house: an adequate plan b.

After discovering this deal, I browsed the store for two more items to add to my cart. But without much direction, it was fruitless. But thinking back to the “Armageddon” find from a week prior, I decided to narrow down my search to Criterion DVDs and discovered “Chasing Amy” and “Rushmore” for the right price. I only knew about “Chasing Amy” because of a recent documentary called “Chasing Chasing Amy,” which follows the complex history the film has within the queer community. I was eager to pair the Criterion release with a documentary screening for a double feature later this year. “Rushmore” is a film that my partner enjoys, but I’ve struggled to stay awake through. Wes Anderson is another director I’d like to build a collection around, although eight of his films have Criterion releases, which I tend to keep separate.

Local Thrift Store: “The Strangers: Prey At Night” ($0.20)

I had no idea that the neighborhood thrift store closest to my work sells all of their movies (VHS, DVD and Blu-ray) for 20 cents each. They tend to get a pretty consistent drip of random titles, so I’ll be sure to check in at least one a month. This is the first Blu-ray title acquired in this experiment, but I really only copped because of the low price point. I really enjoyed the original “Strangers” when it came out, but didn’t think the sequel looked interesting enough to see in theaters or streaming. I finally watched it after scoring this copy for less than a quarter, and I can’t say it retains much of anything I enjoyed from the original. But as a big horror fan, I tend to still enjoy the so-so entries.

eBay: “Ghost Town,” “The Squid and the Whale,” and “Lars and the Real Girl” ($9.07)

Kristen Wiig hosting SNL reminded my partner and me how much we enjoy her work. “Bridesmaids” and “Skeleton Twins” stay in our watch rotation, but I wanted to go deeper into her filmography and decided to return to the Buy Two, Get One Free seller on eBay. I added the three main Kristen Wiig films that I never watched but am interested in seeing, “Ghost Town,” “Whip It,” and “Adventureland,” to my cart and slept on it. “Whip It” had sold out overnight and I decided to remove “Adventureland,” remembering how ubiquitously I see it turn up in thrift stores. Later that week, two separate co-workers mentioned “The Squid and the Whale” and “Lars and the Real Girl,” which I purchased with the eBay promo. No three of these films are available to me via streaming with my current subscriptions, which can be an important consideration.

Garage Sale: “Departures,” “Century of Cinema: A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies,” and “The Cove” ($1.00)

My last pick-up of the month was an unexpected one. Walking home from brunch, my partner and I walked by a garage sale that was wrapping up. I shuffled through a stack of DVDs, with the seller offering three for a buck. My partner wanted “Departures,” which she’d been recommended while attending a local death café. “The Cove” is a documentary I’d been curious about due to its role in perpetuating some of the stereotypes held in the Western world regarding the treatment of animals in Asia. Buying pre-owned physical media also allows me to view films without directly supporting studios or creators I may feel uneasy about supporting (libraries are also valuable resources for this).

via GIPHY

I grabbed “Century of Cinema” because I needed to find a third film for the deal, and I have really enjoyed growing my documentary collection. Martin Scorsese is another director whose catalog I’d like to explore more, especially considering the director’s deep well of documentary features. Fun fact: Martin Scorsese has directed more music documentaries than gangster movies.

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After the first month, my first batch of acquisitions have kickstarted five mini collections:

  1. General DVD collection
  2. Horror collection
  3. Criterion DVD collection
  4. Documentary collection
  5. M. Night Shyamalan film collection

Side note: I underestimated how much shipping costed on my first purchase and went a little over budget this first month. I’ll aim to make up the $3.88 difference in the next two months.

Looking Toward Month Two

I’m trying to keep this interesting, of course for my readers, but mostly for myself. I had fun this first month, but I plan on getting more focused as the experiment progresses. I find that when it comes to any type of collecting (I collect retro/vintage video games, vinyl, t-shirts, movies, and cameras), finding your super-specific niche makes the journey endlessly more fascinating.

Anyone can go out and collect movies. But it’s always evident how much thoughtfulness, attention, and passion went into someone’s film collection. Have you ever visited someone’s house and gotten excited to sift through their home movie collection in hopes of gleaning insights only to find a stack of common blockbusters (Pixar, comic book adaptations, Avatar, Pirates of the Caribbean)? It’s like a Crosley record player and a pile of re-issues from Target or a Nintendo Switch and a shelf full of NBA 2K and FIFA games. It’s depressing, embarrassing, and pointless.

I’m being reductive, but I think it’s important to posit the hypothesis, early in this series, that informs my philosophy on collecting: The more niche a collection becomes, the more interesting and discerning it is. What kind of movie collection will invoke intrigue and conversation? What kind of films do I love that don’t have mass appeal? What kind of editions do I find fascinating or collectible? What parts of cinema history do I find curious or worthy of preservation? Stay tuned next month.

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This is part one of a 12-part series on my experience re-building my physical film collection in response to streaming fatigue. I’m giving myself a $30/month budget for curating a new personal movie collection from thrift stores. Read the introductory post and follow along here on Retro Chronicle.


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