Richard Courtney, Paris – La Place de l’Opéra 1, 1920s

I remember very clearly the first time I heard about Netflix. I was in college and a professor told us he had signed up. We were studying Paris and New York in the 1920s and 30s, and part of our curriculum included interwar movies. I began to interrogate him.

“So they just mail it to you?”

“Yep. It shows up.”

“What if it gets stuck in the mail, and it’s late?”

“There’s no time limit.”

Then I got serious.

“Do they have old movies?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty good.”

I love old movies. Actually, mostly the kind I love are old movies. Growing up in a small town, with a video rental store several miles away, there was a limited selection of classics. I quickly ran through the more typical titles – Casablanca, Psycho, Singin’ In the Rain — but I wanted more. There was a decent video store, but buying titles is expensive, especially if you don’t know if you like the movie already.

I went to the computer, looked up Netflix and began testing it. I looked for more obscure titles. I searched by actor and director to see how deep the catalog went. I was surprised. There were some holes but it was mostly impressed.

I still had a year of college to finish and not much time for a movie subscription, but I kept an eye on it. I would check back in and see how their library expanded.

Still from Les Diaboliques (1953), central to my final thesis

I’ve been a subscriber to Netflix’s DVD delivery service for nearly 15 years, and even with the advent of streaming, I still get red envelopes in the mail. In the days when most mail is a bill or junk, something that makes you do a little happy dance, it always good.

When I started my master’s degree in cinema studies, it was invaluable. I could find the weird, old movies I needed to study. I could watch and rewatch and pause — and even take the disc to show a clip in class. I could keep it as long as I needed.

I can’t pretend it was all about work or school. I also was able to get foreign films and British TV shows that I’d never have been able to see otherwise. I still do. I’ve kept movies for just one night, and (I’m ashamed to say) I’ve kept one as long as six months (Sorry, other person who was waiting for it).

So, happy 20th anniversary to DVD Netflix! Here’s to many more comfy nights on the couch, more smiles at the mailbox and more cinematic realizations.

This post reflects my real opinion. It is also an #ad as part of Netflix’s #DVDNation program. DVD Nation is a group of red envelope enthusiasts who share a love of cinema and help others discover great recommendations in movies and TV shows. Members complete activities to earn points, level up to the next membership level, and unlock benefits.