If you are a regular listener to the Film Junk Podcast, you are probably aware that we are big proponents of physical media and that each of us still maintains a sizable Blu-ray collection, even at a time when it is becoming increasingly uncommon to do so. We firmly believe that if you are a cinephile, you want to own your favourite movies and display them proudly on a shelf. You cannot rely on streaming services to have a particular movie available for you at any given time, even if you “own” a digital copy of that movie. That being said, we are also aware of just how absurd the mentality of a collector can be, which is why we recorded a series of podcasts exposing our innermost thoughts on the matter.
To coincide with the release of our sixth (!) podcast delving into obsessive compulsive matters of collecting physical media and the resulting psychological trauma, we have decided to finally post a full rundown of the key tenets of a collector’s rulebook we have been working on. We are calling it the Movie Organization Manifesto, although it could probably apply to other media as well. If you are looking for guidance on how to organize your collection, this should help put your mind at ease. Obviously it is a personal thing and we are not trying to tell you how to live your life… but just know that if you don’t follow these rules, we will definitely think less of you.
1. Titles should always be separated by format (ie. DVD, Blu-ray, UHD).
In order to maintain a pleasing aesthetic appearance, the first step is to group your movies by format so that cases of similar sizes and colour generally remain together. It goes without saying that if a release contains multiple formats (ie. a Blu-ray that also contains a DVD), it should still be grouped based on the case type. The one exception to this rule is Blu-rays that come in a DVD case, a rare anomaly that still gets filed alongside other Blu-rays but really should be eliminated from your collection in the first place.
2. Within these groups, titles should be separated by medium (ie. TV, film).
Again, this sort of helps keep bigger box sets grouped together and away from single disc releases but, more importantly, it keeps TV and other junk from tainting a pristine film collection. It can get complicated, however, based on the subjective categorization of certain types of content. Here is how we break it down:
- Documentaries are filed with movies.
- Documentary series or mini-series are filed with TV.
- Made for TV movies are filed with movies.
- Holiday specials are filed with TV.
- Concert films can be filed as either movies or TV, depending on the cinematic nature of the title in question.
- Music video collections are filed under TV.
- Sports collections are filed under TV.
- Stand up comedy specials are filed under TV.
3. Within these groups, discs should be sorted in alphabetical order by title.
It seems like a pretty obvious rule, but it is surprising how many people don’t alphabetize their collections. This is the least ambiguous, most reliable method of sorting a large collection, but again there are some finer points that require clarification:
- “The” can be ignored.
- This might mean separating movies from other installments in a franchise although there is some wiggle room for sequels where the titles are fairly close alphabetically.
- Titles that start with numbers go before the letter A, but only if the title actually has a number in it (ie. if the number spelled out as a word, it is filed under the appropriate letter instead).
- Movies with the same title go in order of release date.
- Box sets or collections for a specific director or actor are usually filed by the person’s last name.
- Other box sets are usually filed based on the name of the box set (ie. Hammer Horror Collection is under “H”).
- Double feature / triple feature discs are usually filed by the title of the first movie listed, unless one of the other movies is more prominent or recognizable.
- Foreign language films are sorted by their foreign language title only if that is the title on the cover and spine.
4. Separating by distributor is allowed but depends on the size of the collection.
This has been one of the most debated aspects of the manifesto but we have eventually decided that there is some merit to it. With the rise of so many great boutique Blu-ray distributors out there today (Criterion, Kino Lorber, Twilight Time, etc.), many collectors like to show their dedication to a particular distributor by separating those movies into a group of their own. This can result in a beautiful uniformity among distributors that have a standardized spine design. However, this is only feasible if you have a significant number of releases from that distributor (say, at least 20). We still do not recommend sorting by Criterion Collection number, unless you are some kind of freak that has them all committed to memory.
5. No additional grouping by director, actor, genre, etc.
All other additional grouping is frowned upon, largely because of how ambiguous it can be. It might sound like a good idea to put all of your horror movies and your sci-fi movies together, but you will soon find that there are many movies that straddle genres, leading to confusion. It is a slippery slope and one there is no coming back from.
6. Seasonal shelves are allowed.
The one exception to the previous rule is if you want to separate out movies of a particular genre for themed viewing over a short period of time. This might include highlighting horror movies during Halloween, holiday movies around Christmas, or the films belonging to a particular franchise or artist for a planned marathon. These should not remain separate for longer than a month unless there is strong justification for it.
7. Slipcovers are optional but should remain as consistent as possible across all items.
If you want to add just a little bit more uniformity and cohesion to your collection, you may opt to remove all of your slipcovers. Not all DVD and Blu-ray releases have slipcovers, so by removing them you can earn yourself a little bit of extra consistency. However, some slipcovers have nicer artwork than the main Blu-ray cover and are actually collector’s items unto themselves. The choice is yours, but we advise that if you do hold on to your slipcovers, keep as many as possible. On a related note, J-cards (the cardboard inserts attached to the back of box sets and steelbooks) are also optional but often worth saving for the sake of completeness and to retain the product UPC code.
8. No custom artwork.
There are a lot of DVD and Blu-rays out there with terrible artwork but that is no reason to tarnish your collection with custom fan-made artwork. We get it… there is a lot of beautiful custom artwork out there. The temptation can be great. But at a certain point, if you’re going to discard the official packaging and artwork, your collection might as well just be a bunch of burned DVD-Rs with printed out covers. It just doesn’t feel right and you are also potentially killing the resale value of your collection.
9. Avoid special packaging where possible. Box sets should only be separated from the rest of the collection if they do not fit with the general population.
If you’re a collector, at some point you will no doubt be tempted to buy a special deluxe edition of one of your favourite movies that comes packaged in some exclusive gimmicky case. Star Trek contained in a USS Enterprise, for example. Or maybe the Home Alone series in a paint can. Whatever it is, you will almost always live to regret such a purchase. These releases do not fit nicely on a shelf and, in some cases, they offer less protection to the discs themselves. We recommend avoiding these kinds of releases unless they are the only way to obtain an otherwise outstanding movie or collection. Also, some people like to separate out special box sets completely even when they fit on your shelf, but this is unnecessary… self-indulgent even.
10. Shrink wrap must be removed before filing. Spot checks are also recommended.
Last but not least, DVDs and Blurays should be opened and have the shrink wrap removed before they officially enter your collection. This helps to ensure that the disc inside is in decent condition and that it is the right movie while you are still within the return or exchange window. It also prepares the movie for a quick and easy retrieval at a later date. There is nothing worse than being in the mood to watch a certain movie only to find that you need to fumble with shrink wrap and security stickers before you can satisfy that urge. If you have the time, it is also good to put the movie into your player for a brief “spot check” shortly after purchase as well but we understand this is not always possible.
Note: This is a living document that continues to evolve. Rules may be added or changed over time so feel free to give us your feedback and suggestions. It is our hope that the Movie Organization Manifesto helps you lead a happier, fuller life and lets you sleep soundly at night.