Netflix DVD Is Going Out With a Bang, Mailing up to 10 Final Discs at Once … To Keep?

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Netflix DVD Is Going Out With a Bang, Mailing up to 10 Final Discs at Once … To Keep?

Edit: On Aug. 31, 2023, Netflix confirmed the unspoken implications of their previous email: Users are free to keep any of the discs that they get sent during Netflix DVD’s so-called “finale.” As the company puts it in a new email to users: “We are not charging for any unreturned discs after our last day, September 29th – please enjoy any and all discs you have at home for as long as you like! If you would prefer to return discs, we are accepting returns until October 27th, 2023.”

For the last few months, the film geeks among us have been mourning and eulogizing the impending death of Netflix’s DVD mailing service, the inevitable announcement of which finally came in April of this year after 25 years in operation. We’ve already gone long on why this is a tragedy, and what Netflix DVD represented: A treasure trove of a physical media collection, the incomprehensible size and scope of which (at its peak in the early 2010s) will never be matched again. It was an era when an $8 monthly subscription meant access to more films than you can now find with $100 or more in streaming service subscriptions, provided you had the patience to wait a few days for a disc to be delivered. The flow of those discs is finally coming to a stop at the end of September, but not before Netflix seemingly cooks up one final scheme to unload part of its still huge DVD collection.

Netflix DVD subscribers, of which I am still one, received an intriguing email from the service last night, promising a “finale” blowout to help subscribers burn through some of the final films in their queue. It states the following:

After 25 years of movies in the mail, we’re approaching the end of our final season. We really appreciate that you’re sharing movie nights with us until the last day. Let’s have some fun for our finale! If you click below by August 29th, you could find up to 10 extra discs in your mailbox. These finale discs will be sent out on September 29th, our very last shipping day. You won’t know if any extra envelopes are headed your way until they arrive in your mailbox! Don’t forget to review your queue and move your must-watch movies to the top.

Other outlets are already reporting on the so-called Netflix DVD finale, but without stating the unspoken message that Netflix seems to be implying: This would appear to be a way for the company to eliminate a chunk of its vast DVD and Blu-ray library in one fell swoop, by simply sending those discs out to customers without ever expecting to get them back. It’s sort of an elegant solution to the headache of disposing of those discs, although the service will no doubt still have a huge wrap-up operation regardless. But why shouldn’t the discs end up in the hands of the consumers who have kept Netflix DVD in operation for two and a half decades? As Paste Movies editor Jacob Oller put it: “At least they won’t all end up buried in the desert somewhere like all those E.T. Atari games.”

Netflix certainly hasn’t avowed that this finale amounts to a free disc giveaway, and one wonders if perhaps there are legal reasons they can’t actively encourage subscribers to hold on to the discs after they send up to 10 bonus DVDs or Blu-rays your way. But there’s also no logical reason why any subscriber would send these discs back: From its earliest days, the Netflix DVD service was built and marketed on “no late fees,” a key component of its early strategy that helped Netflix take down the established brick and mortar movie rental chains such as Blockbuster. The only incentive that ever compelled customers to return the red envelopes was the fact that you couldn’t receive more discs until you returned the ones you had in your possession. Take away that contract with the service folding up shop, and the viewer has zero reason to put those discs back in the mail.

And honestly, Netflix probably doesn’t want those discs back! There’s a very high probability that thousands and thousands of titles left in their possession will end up moldering in a forgotten warehouse somewhere, if they’re not sent straight to the landfill. It’s going to be an ignominious end to what was formerly the world’s greatest physical media library no matter what happens, so they might as well distribute a kernel of that library into the possession of their core customer base before closing up shop for good.

Obviously, the open-ended language of the Netflix DVD finale statement isn’t making any promises. What a person does or doesn’t receive will no doubt be based on what’s in their queue and remaining availability. One does wonder, though, if this kind of promotion might even entice some film geeks to sign up for Netflix DVD at the last minute, hoping to score some oddball or out-of-print DVDs for their own collections. It’s unclear whether a new subscriber would be given that option, or whether the promotion is only open to those who were already subscribers when last night’s email went out.

As for me, you’d better believe I’m taking a look at the status of my queue, which is mostly depleted after years of the company slowly eliminating its physical media stocks, causing titles to disappear. I’ll do my best to arrange it with an assortment of obscure, eccentric titles, reflecting the way I used the Netflix DVD service over the years to broaden my cinematic interests. And if Netflix would prefer that I pretend that I’ll be returning those discs, I can play along. But for film geeks who care about physical media, this could be a nice silver lining to the sad end of an era.

Jim Vorel is Paste’s resident genre guru. You can follow him on Twitter for much more film content.

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