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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

“why is Netflix secretly cropping movies?” [updated]

WTF, Netflix? From Flavorwire:

The Tumblr What Netflix Does is drawing attention to the company’s practice of showing wider-screen movies — films shot in the “Scope” formats, in the neighborhood of 2.39:1 instead of the standard widescreen ratio of 1.85:1. To put it simply, at risk of being boring: most movies and TV shows fill your 16:9 widescreen TV, while others, usually epics and big action movies and the like, shoot in the wider “Scope” format, which thus requires the black bars on even a widescreen TV, so you can see the entire frame (just as the bars were required to see standard widescreen movies on a square TV). But Netflix has quietly, without any notation or indication of alteration, been doing stuff like this:

Examples, from What Netflix Does:

The Planet of the Apes (1968) before Netflix…


…and after:


I love this one. The Passion of the Christ before Netflix…


…and after:


That other thief up on Calvary was just redundant, after all.

Read the full Flavorwire piece and see more examples at What Netflix Does. It’s all enraging.

UPDATE: Reader Jimmy writes:

Over the last 3 years I’ve sent numerous complaint emails about this cropping nonsense to Netflix with not a single response back. what does that mean? i have no fracking clue.


A few weeks ago I started up a petition for them rat bastards to disclaim any modifications made on the films they present. i Personally don’t care who does the cropping – i just want to know IF it was cropped.

The Change.org petition is here.

posted in:
Net buzz
  • Beowulf

    Ha! DVDs and Blu-Rays are not unnecessary yet!

  • LaSargenta

    OOOOOkkkkkaaaaaaay. I hadn’t enrolled in Netflix yet and now, although I was thinking of changing that just yesterday, I’m definitely not.

  • singlestick

    A lot of people don’t like the black bars. They think that “something” has been cut off. And they don’t understand aspect ratios, no matter how you explain it. Even on a big screen TV, they will think that the movie is being shown “wrong,” or that it is too small, or even that the black bars are distracting. This has long been a problem.

    It’s easier for Netflix to capitulate to stupidity than to try to educate viewers.

  • RogerBW

    Kill the TV! Free the aspect ratio! Move to projectors! :-)

    …and of course they will blame everything on PIRACY.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I might be (and I have not tried to confirm this) that Netflix is getting versions of movies from studios/distributors that have already been cropped. The studios/distributors could reasonably see that as a hedge to try and maintain DVD sales on these films. I think it’s highly unlikely that Netflix has been given authorization to modify the films in any way. And the procedure isn’t exactly consistent. I just watched “Avengers” on Netflix last week, and it was clearly letterboxed.

    It’s also possible that the people posting to the Tumblr need to find the “Format” button on their TV remotes and set it to “Normal” or “Widescreen” instead of “Zoom”. This was pretty high on my troubleshooting list for picture problems when I worked techs support of a DVR manufacturer, and you’d be amazed how many self-proclaimed “videophiles” screw that up.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Well, Blu-Ray was always unnecessary. >.>

  • Ken Patterson

    My understanding is that NetFlix (and any other) streaming is considered a broadcast medium – which means that using the DVD for the source is not allowed (generally DVDs are not licensed for broadcast, and it can be difficult to get them licensed for such). So the studios supply boradcast masters for NetFlix to ingest into their system.

    An example of this is with Doctor Who, specically the Power of Kroll (Tom Baker, Key to Time series) The DVD release had been restored and so forth, but the straming copy (here in the US anyways) was the BBCWA master, which has dips to black for commercials (some information about that situation can be found here: http://www.dvillage.org/index.php/ktehsf/kteh-drwho-classic/kteh-drwho-classic-restoration)

  • Hank Graham

    They’ve been cropping forever. So do Hulu and Amazon Prime.

    What I don’t understand is how they get away with shrinking the end credits to a postage-stamp sized window at the corner, so you have to go to imdb.com to read the credits if you’re interested. Don’t the Hollywood unions protest that crap?

  • Beowulf

    Hang on to that 19-inch b/w RCA cathode-ray set. It is more collectible every day.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Hey, the black and white CRT remained a viable, and vital, piece of technology for the better part of a century. Show some respect.

    Blu-Ray just meant I could buy Star Wars again.

  • Beowulf

    You could…but did you?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Hell no. Well, not yet anyway.

  • And a lot of people went and saw Grown Ups 2. A lot of people are very much WRONG. In multiple ways.

  • I’m pretty sure the studio controls a lot of what Netflix shows, as evidenced by different regions having different crops. In the beginning I think they did their own DVD ripping, etc… but now I think they just get sent nice 1080p files and it’s probably part of the deal that they play what the studio sends.

    I would not be surprised at all if netflix was provided an inferior copy of a popular movie, to encourage BluRay sales.

    Just doesn’t seem like there’s a good reason for Netflix to crop things on their own.

    EDIT: looks like several others have already made this observation. Well, count me in!

  • just navigate back up to the credits and select them to bring them back up to viewable size, dawg.

  • Precisely this.

  • Don’t let this silliness deter you. PLENTY of movies are properly cropped and the service is worth way more than the measly $8/mo you have to pay. It’s a fantastic way to find new stuff you’ve never heard of, and to watch old TV shows to revel in nostalgia, etc.

    I doubt very much that Netflix is responsible for the cropping, they’ve stated as much in an update to the original story here (at the bottom): http://flavorwire.com/404511/why-is-netflix-secretly-cropping-movies/

  • Not until Disney releases the remastered (non-special edition) original trilogy, which they will.

  • PJK

    As someone who switched to Bluy-Ray I couldn’t disagree more. The picture quality improvements of Blu-Ray over DVD are so apparent that whenever I watch an old DVD it almost feels like I’m watching VHS again (albeit without the annoying tape head induced errors).

    I’m glad that Blu-Ray exists and I hope that the technological developments for future media delivery systems bring as much quality improvements over Blu-Ray as Blu-Ray brought us over DVD.

  • PJK

    I do think that this is maybe not the fault of NetFlix, but of the studios that provide these movies. There seems to be a tendency for studios to release full frame versions of their movies (full frame these days being 16:9) as they seem to think that this better matches the TV’s most people own.

    I’ve had this issue in the past with DVD’s as well, when I bought the DVD for “Heartbreakers” a movie which was shown in the cinemas in 21:9 format, but on the DVD was reformated to 16:9. This caused a lot of framing problems where people would fall of the frame or would suddenly appear half out of frame (when two people where on each side of the frame).

    I really don’t understand why studios seem to feel the need to do this when it usually just ruins your enjoyment of the movie.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’ve had my HDTV/Blu-Ray setup for about 6 months. In that time I’ve watched maybe 6 movies on Blu-Ray. And I’m just not seeing it. Or rather, the relatively low quality of the DVDs seems more a problem with the resolution change than the actual compression rate of DVD. Also, Blu-Ray is just a stopgap between physical media and digital delivery. If I were willing to blow through my data caps* I could watch just about anything I want in HD right now. Once the US’s network infrastructure joins the 21st century, optical disks will go the way of video tape.

    * which, at $2/10GB over 150GB, isn’t really a hardship. That HD movie would cost me an extra buck, if I was over my limit. It’s just the principle of the thing, y’know? And before anyone chimes in with “I would never use an ISP with data caps”, understand that my options are dial-up (I can’t believe thats still a thing), satellite (with its 1500ms latency plus data caps), or my current, point-to-point wireless broadband (which has treated me well, has downtime measured in single-digit hours per year, doesn’t always charge for usage over the cap). CenturyLink DSL has no repeaters in range of my home and no plans to instal any, and Comcast literally will not cross the street to my home. Not that either of those are spectacular options, either.

  • Bluejay

    Agree. My wife and I are just now starting on The Forsyte Saga, which I very much doubt we would have easily stumbled on without Netflix. And we’ve discovered Luther and Lost Girl and several other series the same way…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Flavorwire also updated their post. Long story short, everyone is (indirectly) blaming everyone else.


  • Jonathan Roth

    I find it depends greatly on the movie. Traditionally animated cartoons HAVE to be blu-ray for me, since most DVD upscaling becomes immediately visible with the thin outlines of the characters. Spectacle films with lots of detail are a close second, but most dvds look just fine to me.

  • Jonathan Roth


    I don’t care if it’s $80 and only comes bundled with the Prequels.


  • MisterAntrobus

    As a hardcore cinephile, I agree wholeheartedly with PJK. The increase in clarity of picture and sound of Blu-Ray vs. DVD is indispensable, especially with older films, with which it is essential that the film frame be scanned at the maximum possible resolution to preserve the analog qualities of the original photography.

    I understand that there’s another generation of 4K resolution playback to come with advances in digital visual technology, but if it’s an all-digital format (no physical media whatsoever), I will be very sad. I treat my movies with as much prestige as I do my books, all of which deserve shelf space to display proudly in the finest format I can muster. Others may not feel this way, I know (oddly enough, I’m fine with my whole music collection being digital), but I love the sense of ownership of a fine collectible film.

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