On Movie Collections: In Praise of Box Sets
I have a confession to make, Dear Reader. I love box sets.
I have been collecting home media editions of movies and (a few) TV shows for nearly 38 years, ever since I bought a video store’s used rental copy of Star Wars at the tail end of 1983. I’ve owned tons of content in most of the major home video formats, starting with VHS videotape all the way to 4K UHD, except for laserdiscs, video compact discs (VCDs), and the short-lived competitor to Blu-ray discs (BD), high definition DVDs (HD-DVDs).
Although box sets existed as long ago as the late 1980s and early ‘90s, I didn’t own a lot of them when my video library consisted only of VHS tapes. I only bought a few, and they just happened to be the ones released by CBS/FOX (aka Fox Video) whenever Lucasfilm released reissues of the original trilogy, starting with the 15th Anniversary set of 1992 and continuing to the 2001 set released a year before Star Wars’ 25th Anniversary. Mainly, though, I avoided buying VHS box sets along the lines of HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon or PBS’ The Civil War: A Ken Burns Film because they were expensive, bulky, and fragile.
That changed once I started transitioning from VHS to DVD in the 1990s and early 2000s. I was an early adopter of DVDs – I bought my first discs a year or two before I bought my first DVD player late in 1999, – and it is still a decent format, even though it’s been supplanted by two newer disc formats over the past 13 years. Along with durability – provided users handled the discs properly – and better audio/visual quality, DVDs had an advantage over VHS tapes in that their smaller size allowed for less bulky packaging. I could place two or three DVDs on the same amount of shelf space that held one properly stored VHS tape.
Although most of my DVD – and later, Blu-ray and 4K UHD Blu-ray – collection consists of individual titles, I own a nice stash of box sets. Most of my DVD box sets are of entire television series or miniseries, e.g., the three separate season sets of Star Trek: The Original Series or the 24: The Complete Series omnibus set, although I also have box sets for the first six Star Wars films and the three pre-2008 Indiana Jones films. I also have quite a few Ken Burns documentary series on DVD, including Jazz, the last DVD release of Baseball, The West (which was directed by Stephen Ives but produced by Burns), and The War: A Film by Ken Burns.
Initially, box sets were expensive, at least for those of us in a fixed income. The most I ever paid for a DVD box set was $200, and that was in 2011 when I got the eight-season set of 24: The Complete Series – a rare occurrence of a super-expensive box set. For the most part, though, most of my multi-disc box sets got less expensive as the format matured – especially in the late 2000s – prices came down a bit and I was able to get From the Earth to the Moon, The Pacific, The World at War, Victory at Sea, and Vietnam: A Television History for less than $80 each.
My Blu-ray collection is larger than my DVD one (428 to 239) in no small part because I invest in more box sets in both 2K and 4K UHD BDs. In some cases, such as the Star Trek, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Peter Jackson’s two Middle-earth trilogies, I have multiple box sets. And for the most part, it’s because more often than not, box sets are less expensive than trying to round up individual films when you are buying titles from a franchise.
The priciest box set I own currently is Buena Vista Home Entertainment/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, which holds 27 discs (9 with the feature films on 4K UHD, 9 with remastered 2K BDs of the feature films, and 9 bonus features 2K BDs). I bought two of those – at the Caregiver’s suggestion – last year for $259.99 plus local and state sales taxes.
I also have a James Bond box set with the currently existing 24 Eon-produced James Bond films (from Dr. No all the way to Spectre.) That one was released in 2016 by MGM Home Entertainment for $114.99 (not a bad price for 24 feature films), but since I waited till 2019 to buy it, I only paid $75.99 for a set – it was a Black Friday/Black Monday thing, if I recall. It can be bought on Amazon for $89.96 or even less now – which is a still a sweet deal, considering that it contains two dozen feature films!
If I didn’t invest in box sets as much as I do, I wouldn’t have classics such as The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, or Treasure of the Sierra Madre; these come with The Best of Bogart Collection. I also wouldn’t have the original version of The Thomas Crown Affair or The Sand Pebbles; those movies are found in The Steve McQueen Collection. And though I owned Spaceballs and Young Frankenstein on DVD, I now have them on Blu-ray, too, along with seven other Mel Brooks films in the 9-disc The Mel Brooks Collection box set.
The latest additions to my collection – Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection and Zack Snyder’s Justice League Trilogy – were box sets. They weren’t cheap, but they were a convenient and less-pricey way of growing my 4K UHD collection. In both cases, the sets include 2K editions (all remastered for their 2021 box sets), so I can play the new discs either on my 4K player or out in the common room on the 2K Blu-ray player.
So, yeah. I admit it. I absolutely love box sets.
 I didn’t even own a videocassette recorder when I acquired my first three videocassette copies of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was saving my pennies for a VCR, which in 1984 was a $400 investment if you wanted a good one. But my friend Betsy Matteis did, so I left my tapes in her house until I finally bought my own VCR in the early summer of 1984. That’s how I watched my first movies on home media – as a guest in a friend’s house!