$30/Month Thrifted DVD Collection: Month Three – Community Garage Sale Season in LA

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This is part three 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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After six months of gloomy weather in Los Angeles, the sun finally came out in June to mark the start of summer. With the brighter weather comes community garage sale season. Since driving around Los Angeles continues to give me anxiety, I’m really only interested in community garage sales, where I can patronize at least a dozen sellers with minimal commuting. With my one Saturday morning free in June, I visited the annual Sierra Madre community garage sale (our first time in the area), where I picked up flicks from four different sellers.

I also explored a few other sources, including a community movie box in my neighborhood. In my introductory post in this series, I mentioned: “Because I live a few miles outside Hollywood, I’m also within walking distance of two FreeBlockbuster boxes.” FreeBlockbuster boxes are essentially the same as the “Little Free Library” project, only with movies. Unfortunately, I’d been a bit overly optimistic about what I’ might discover. One of the two boxes is no longer there. And the one that is still available is always full of junk: Jillian Michaels workout tapes, audiobooks, and bootleg DVDs. After three monthly visits without finding anything worthwhile, I’m giving up on FreeBlockbuster boxes for now.

This experiment has given me an opportunity to get to know my local thrift stores better. This June, I visited two Goodwill stores that I had never been before, both in the Grandview neighborhood of Glendale, California. One was small and overpriced with a terrible movie section. The second was had a decent movie selection and seemed to have good inventory turnover. Although I didn’t find anything on my first visit, I bookmarked the location in my GPS app for future visits— probably only when I happen to be in the area. So far on this journey, Goodwill stores have been a greater source of disappointment than movies, with a lot of fruitless browsing.

It was a gorgeous morning when my partner and I visited the Sierra Madre community sale, arriving about 15 mins after start. The community sale was in a local park, with sellers mostly under tents. Like I mentioned in a previous post, having someone to tag along on thrifting adventure can be advantageous, especially at community garage sales where it pays to be swift. Sifting through a stack of films and having someone help check for disc condition can help move through big tubs with ease. In addition to some kitchenware, picture frames, vintage bookends, and a brass vinyl record stand, we also took home a little over two dozen films.

Garage Sale #1: “Platoon,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “The Martian,” Tim Burton three pack, “Dazed and Confused,” “The Descendants,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “Zodiac,” and “The Matrix” 4-Film collection ($10.00)

I didn’t know what to expect walking up to the Sierra Madre community garage sale. Since it was located in a wealthier neighborhood, I wondered how that might affect pricing. Fortunately, all films were priced at $1 or less. This first seller had a large tub full of DVDs and Blu-ray for $1 each. “Platoon,” “Reservoir Dogs,” and “Full Metal Jacket” are all sealed. For now at least, I intend to keep them sealed and separated. “The Martian,” the Tim Burton three pack (which includes “Beetlejuice,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Corpse Bride”), and “Dazed and Confused” are all Blu-ray. “Dazed and Confused” will join “Before Sunset” in the Linklater collection. “The Martian” will kickstart a Ridley Scott filmography.

Both “The Descendants” and “Zodiac” have been on my watch list and will kick off the Alexander Payne and David Fincher filmography collections respectively. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” was a film I had to cop, because it felt too fated that I found it in Sierra Madre. “The Matrix” 4-Film collection was a great value, containing the original trilogy and “The Animatrix,” the anime-style anthology film.

Garage Sale #2: “Almost Famous,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” “Singles,” Bachelor Party Three Pack, “The Land Before Time” ($5.00)

After two months of sparse Blu-ray finds, I was happy to be picking them up for a price point that I’m comfortable with: $1 (they’re $4 at my local Goodwill stores). “Almost Famous” is the Bootleg cut (highly recommend). “Singles,” a Cameron Crowe film from 1992, is one of the highlights from the day. It was shot around Seattle and prominently features grunge culture. “Almost Famous” and “Singles” will kickstart a Cameron Crowe filmography. The 3-movie pack includes “Bachelor Party,” “Back to School,” and “Weekend At Bernie’s,” three films that I ordinarily wouldn’t be keen on acquiring. But for $1 in a single package, why not.

“The Land Before Time” will join “Shrek” and “Holes” in my family-friendly collection. “The Land Before Time” was one of my favorite movies growing up. I loved it for its dark tone, deep characters, and harrowing odyssey. To broaden its appeal to a wider audience, its 13 sequels contain a more childish tone as well as unnecessary musical numbers in an attempt to attract your typical Disney fanbase: pass.

Garage Sale #3: “Control Room,” “The Fog of War,” “Fast Times At Ridgemont High,” “Capturing The Friedmans,” and “Dogtown and Z-Boys” ($4.00)

It was a great day to be a Cameron Crowe fan. “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” brought my Crowe collection up to three for the day. And the rest helped give my documentary collection a needed boost. “Control Room” and “The Fog of War” are both political documentaries; the former explores journalistic coverage of the Iraq War, while the latter uses archival footage to chronicles a former Secretary of Defense’s observations on war.

I struck up a conversation with the seller, whom I had just purchased some kitchenware from when I spotted “Dogtown and Z-Boys” on DVD. The seller was so thrilled with my interest in the film that he gave it to me for free. “Dogtown and Z-Boys” is a skateboarding documentary that was financed by Vans, the sneaker company, on a $400k budget. The seller was passionate about skateboarding history in Southern California and seemed happy to know it’d go to someone who’d appreciate it. Thus, I’ll prioritize watching “Dogtown and Z-Boys” soon.

Garage Sale #4: “Little Miss Sunshine,” LOL 4-Movie Pack, “Doctor Zhivago,” “Sharknado,” “Django Unchained” ($1.25)

Stack of five DVDs found at a local garage sales for 25 cents each, including “Doctor Zhivago” and a For Your Consideration copy of “Little Miss Sunshine.”

My final stop of the day was at a seller with multiple tubs and the lowest prices: 25 cents per movie. I was getting a little tired at this point and probably could have spent a little more digging through for gems. The highlight from this batch was the For Your Consideration (FYC) screener DVD of “Little Miss Sunshine,” which was a welcomed surprise after last month’s haul of FYC screeners from the early aughts. “Sharknado” is another movie that I’d only cop at the right price (sub-$1). “Django Unchained” kickstarted my Tarantino collection.

I picked up “Doctor Zhivago,” which came in the same type of special edition release as “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” I did a little research and found another DVD collector had posted on hometheaterforum.com about their experiences collecting these types of releases from the Warner Bros. ‘2-Disc Special Edition’ series, which the collector notes is sometimes called ‘The Slip Cover Series’ due to the style of packaging. The same collector also noted the high quality but lamented that Warner Brothers did not support the releases enough to document a complete list of releases for the series. My copy of “The Great Gatsby” from last month is also the same type of special edition. I may consider starting a Warner Bros. ‘2-Disc Special Edition’ collection.

The same forum also named a four other notable high-quality collector series to keep an eye out for:

  1. New Line’s ‘Platinum Series’
  2. Fox’s ‘Five Star’ Collection
  3. Universal’s ‘Collector’s Edition’
  4. Buena Vista’s ‘Collector’s Series’

Collecting Multi-Movie Collection

The “Laugh Out Loud” 4-Movie Pack was an interesting find, because this is one of a handful of different collections that I’ve seen that are branded and packaged this way. This one is mostly themed around Michael Cera, although he isn’t in “Pineapple Express.” In researching this release, I also discovered other “Laugh Out Loud” branded collections:

  • Seth Rogan collection (“Pineapple Express,” “The Night Before,” “The Interview,” and “This is The End”)
  • Adam Sandler collection (“50 First Dates,” “Click,” “Big Daddy,” and “Mr Deeds”)
  • Kevin James collection (“Grown Ups,” “Paul Blart,” and “Zookeeper”)

Leaving the Sierra Madre community garage sale, I took home four different three or four-film collections: Tim Burton, The Matrix, Laugh Out Loud, and Comedy Triple Feature. Although it makes things a little trickier to track, I really love the convenience and charm of these collections.

Small collection of multi-feature DVD releases.

In recent years, I’ve thought about how incredible it’d be to start my own video rental store, despite it being one of the least viable business ventures imaginable in 2024. Even the best-managed video rental stores in the country have either gone out of business, are operated at a loss, or have found some extraordinary approach to stay in business (such as becoming a semi-volunteer-run nonprofit). I’ve contemplated how I might would run the store and thought it’d be cozy to offer a shelf of multi-film collections that are marketed as “Slumber Party-Ready,” i.e. perfect for a fun night-in with friends. Maybe one day!

Local Thrift Store:  ($3.00)

I took a three-week break from my go-to thrift store in June and returned to find someone had donated a small FYC collection. For 20 cents each, I took home 13 unique FYC screeners from various televisions series as well as two standard DVDs: “Charlotte’s Web” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin.” These two titles are solid enough to pick up but common enough to hold off until you can find them for pocket change.

Since most of these FYC screeners contain only two or three episodes, I thrifted this collection of FYC screeners for preservation and archival purposes.

The early to mid-2010s were clearly a different time for television. In the British comedy-drama series “Derek,” Ricky Gervais was given two seasons to portray a nursing home worker with an intellectual disability. It received mixed reviews, but most viewers and critics seemed to feel that Gervais’ performance was at least well-meaning. Season Four of “Louie” premiered four years before the comedian’s cancellation in 2017. I remember really enjoying the tone and storylines from this season, with the exception of an episode called “In the Woods,” which I thought provided an alarmist perspective on youth weed culture. I might be alone in this, as the episode received critical acclaim.

The lot included two separate screeners for “American Horror Story: Coven,” one of my favorite seasons from the horror anthology series. The critically-acclaimed first season of “Fargo” is neat to add to the FYC archive, as it earned several big awards for acting and directing.

Collection of For Your Consideration screeners purchased at a thrift store for $2.60. Titles include: Fargo, American Horror Story, Modern Family, and The Americans.

In my previous post, I included FYC screeners in total movie count. But in retrospect, it makes sense for all FYC screeners will be archived in a separate “special collection,” as these are more for collecting than viewing. I’ll arrange special collections based on the year in which they were submitted for awards contention. While I’m really enjoying hunting for FYC screeners, my focus continues to be films that I want to watch and are potentially harder to find in the age of streaming. Thus, acquisitions should only account for less than a quarter of my monthly thrifting budget.

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With these first three months of the experiment complete, my current collection is composed of these mini collections:

  1. General DVDs
  2. General Blu-ray
  3. Horror
  4. Criterion
  5. Documentary
  6. Director filmographies
    • Noah Baumbach
    • Cameron Crowe
    • David Fincher
    • John Hughes
    • Ang Lee
    • Richard Linklater
    • Alexander Payne
    • Martin Scorsese
    • Ridley Scott
    • M. Night Shyamalan
    • Quentin Tarantino
  7. Superbit DVDs
  8. Slumber Party Multi-Film Collection
  9. For Your Consideration (Special Collection)

Looking Toward Month Four

Heading into July, Los Angeles is going to be scorching hot, but the hunt continues. My go-to local thrift store has remained my most consistent source these first three months and will likely remain this way for the rest of the experiment. With summer just beginning, I have a few more solid months of garage sale season, so I plan on spending at least one morning in July scouring my garage sales for DVDs. If you have any recommendations for other sources of films that I may be overlooking, please feel free to drop them in the comments!

***

This is part three 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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