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The Fragility of Film

The Fragility of Film

Streaming services give cinephiles and casual viewers access to thousands of films across every genre. If you’re willing to subscribe to several, you can see a wide cross-section of titles. Browsing the endless selection can take as long as actually watching a film for some. But it’s those times when you’re seeking something specific when the limitations of streaming become apparent.

The big names in streaming prioritise newer films, while BFI Player and Mubi contain an eclectic, if limited, selection. Looking for a lesser-known film from the 90s? Most likely you won’t find it anywhere. Unless that is, you’re willing to buy a second-hand DVD.

How many of us see a particular film on a service, add it to our watchlist, then sigh in disappointment three months later when we finally decide to watch it, only to find it no longer available?


A hundred years ago, you couldn’t revisit a film once it was no longer showing in the cinema. Some important films of the 1920s are lost to time. This shouldn’t be an issue in the modern world, but with the rights for popular films constantly being negotiated between owners, or elapsing entirely for lesser-known films, we run the risk of losing important pieces of film history. Every generation of viewing technology sees numerous titles being left behind as we’ve moved from VHS to DVD, to Blu-ray, to 4K. With physical media becoming less popular and with streaming services offering catalogues that are far from definitive, any film without a guaranteed audience can be deemed unworthy of restoration.


After a century of cinema, there’s still a fragility to seeing a film. There are no guarantees of physical media or Video-On-Demand release. This might be it. So, enjoy it while you can.

Written for The Film Dispatch by Scott Forrest. 


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