I think it is fair to say that what most people want to have happen when they slide most DVDs into most DVD players is to have the movie on that disc begin to play. There may be a few times when a person desires the special features, and perhaps if the disc holds multiple episodes of a TV show, for example, the menu may be the desired destination. Still, I think that for most people and most discs, autoplay is the desired behavior.
Of course, autoplay is never a choice. The movie studio is so excited to have captive eyeballs that they cannot help themselves. They play a series of previews for you, perhaps an ad for the soundtrack, and maybe even a music video if there’s a tie in to the movie and the movie studio has a deal with the record label. Before you know it, more than five minutes have passed between the moment you slid the disc drawer closed and the opportunity to push play comes up. In the meantime you’ve pushed play 127 times, and each time the DVD has helpfully scolded you with some version of “action not permitted.”
When you are playing the disc by yourself, or for other adults, this interval is dull, but easily handled. A person can be dispatched to pop popcorn and pour drinks, for example. Try this five minute waiting game with a roomful of kids, and it’s a different matter. Small children will quote, with no sense of irony, the creature from the Shrek intro who intones “Ya, ya, stot da moo-vie.” Depending on how many times you have sat through a given film’s intro sequence and how much sleep you have under your belt, you may find yourself replying “I’d have started the #@$%movie if the $%^& disc would #$%-ing let me!”
The most painful time for this issue to arise is in a car with a DVD player. The children excitedly clamor for a movie which you’ve been saving for the big trip, you remove it from its case and slide it in to the player, and then the ordeal begins – the sole screen in the car faces the eager children, so you have no way to tell when you can push play. Some of the kids will want to watch all 63 previews while others will tell you to start, and every time you do push play, nothing happens. The weaker kids will start to cry and faint as they endure ads for direct-to-DVD movies like “Buzz Lightyear Gets His Groove Back II Remixed”. Finally, once everyone is so annoyed that no one remains interested in watching the movie, the menu appears and play is now a choice. Thanks, DVD people.
Can Hollywood possibly wonder if user-hostile decisions like the above contribute to DVD piracy and DVD ripping? A DivX-encoded movie on a DVD-R slides right into a DVD and starts playing in a jiffy. Until Hollywood can figure out the appeal of that simple statement, they will continue to antagonize their customers and ultimately imperil their own business.