I Chose “Minari” Over My Netflix Subscription

A few weeks ago I was checking my email and saw a message from A24, a movie distributor. It was a short and sweet note telling me to “Get Your Heart Ready” and that screenings of Minari were available via their website for $20.

This was shortly before Valentine’s day, so it was appealing to think of the movie screening as a gift. My husband and I watched the trailer for Minari and thought it looked good. I bought a screening ticket. But what really made me think about watching the movie was the almost concurrent information I received about my Netflix subscription going up to $18 a month.

If you’ve ever taken an economics course, you know that markets are supposed to be based on “informed consumers making rational choices.”

- Noam Chomsky “Requiem for the American Dream

I started to think about how much I’ve been spending on movies lately. Our household subscribes to quite a few services and between all of them — Amazon, HBO Max(included as part of our family cell phone package), Google, formerly Netflix — we can usually find something we want to watch. Our family has our movie night on Fridays, and we rotate between the 4 of us (two adults, two kids) on what we’re going to watch. The rule is that everyone can lobby for or against a film and provide alternatives, but the person that owns that night gets the final say in what we all watch.

Lately, I try to think of a movie that I want to watch before sitting down in front of the TV. My husband and I have also taken to suggesting movies (especially comedies) to our kids without first browsing through the movies. Why?

  • We’ve wasted time browsing through films
  • We’ve picked films that we’re not very excited about because of the fatigue of choosing and time passing.
  • We’ve settled on movies that are available for “free” (i.e. not renting them from Amazon or Google) even though we don’t want to really watch them

What started to happen was that sometimes the movie I wanted to see was unavailable, but the sequel was available. But I didn’t want the sequel, I wanted the original! Or something that we had seen available a few weeks ago but put on the table was no longer available. At all, even for a price.

So the appeal of renting a movie that had a time block felt appealing. It was as close as we could get to an old movie-theater experience without leaving home. I told everyone that we only had a block of time to view the movie, so it was either watch it or we lose our chance. We got the popcorn, sat down, and had a lovely time watching the movie. When it was done, it was done; no auto-play, no algorithm suggesting more things to watch.

I logged into Netflix, and while reading about Netflix’s Downloads for You feature I found out about how I could download my viewing history. My question to myself was — am I getting out of this what I used to get out of this?

I downloaded my personal Netflix data and started to play around with it.

We’re just not watching Netflix as much as we used to…

Having just this simple graph made me think about things like:

  • Why did our viewing drop so much after 2015/16?
  • There was a bump during the beginning of Covid-19 lockdown in March and April 2020 , but we didn’t keep watching.
  • Aside from “My Octopus Teacher”, a few episodes of “Queen’s Gambit”, “The Crown” and “Indian Matchmaking”, I didn’t watch that much in late 2020.
  • We started renting a lot more movies on Amazon, because those were the movies we wanted to watch
  • Late 2020 we got Disney+ and my kids binge-watched “The Mandalorian” over and over again.

In January 2021, the show that we streamed the most was “We Bear Bears”. It wasn’t me, it was my 8-year-old. “We Bear Bears” is also available on HBO Max.

So for now, we’re going to take a break from Netflix and see if there are any other new adventures in streaming out there for us.

I also live near Scarecrow Video in Seattle and haven’t been there in awhile. I think we’ll support them more in the future.

Scarecrow Video has over 130,000 titles in our library, including rare, noncommercial, hard-to-find and out of print titles, and complete collections otherwise inaccessible to the general public. Our wide range of formats means our collection is not limited to streaming technology or homogenized by commercial value: Scarecrow keeps everything on hand, just as a public library would. Over 125 years of film and cultural history from 129 countries reside within our walls.

Our inclusive inventory is carefully cultivated, curated and archived by people who love film and are passionate about universal access. The Scarecrow Project combines accessibility, affordability, consistency, and popular formats with one of the world’s genuine film treasure troves.

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An Information Designer and Writer focused on clear, beautiful visuals and compelling stories. lorrainesawicki.substack.com

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Lorraine Sawicki

Lorraine Sawicki

An Information Designer and Writer focused on clear, beautiful visuals and compelling stories. lorrainesawicki.substack.com

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