The growing number of films that are getting a release on DVD, but not Blu-ray

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A growing number of films, if they do get a physical disc release, are now bypassing Blu-ray – we’ve been taking a look.

The ongoing decline in physical media sales is not fresh news, sadly, and 2019 has shown little sign of reversing the trend. The narrowing of outlets to sell discs – both online and in stores – and more and more people turning to digital platforms has led to assorted studios changing their tactics.

Entertainment One, most recently, has opted to put its disc output through Universal in the UK. Universal already distributes all of Paramount’s releases, and EOne previously had a deal with Fox. The Fox/Disney merger will inevitably lead to more consolidation there.

One particular growing trend that I’ve noticed, even for titles that do get a disc release, is the stripping away of the Blu-ray option. That a studio for a film from which it expects lower financial returns will just put out a DVD. We’ve seen this recently with the terrific Wild Rose, that came out on disc a week or two back. The brilliant Beats heads to stores next week, but only in DVD form. And perhaps even more surprisingly, the higher profile Blinded By The Light is now up for pre-order, but DVD only.

Further examples on the upcoming release schedule? Booksmart will be DVD only in the UK, as will Late Night starring Emma Thompson, hit horror flick Ma, and comedy success Good Boys.

Separately, Lionsgate pulled back on a 4K release for Charlize Theron-Seth Rogen-headlined comedy Long Shot, but that’s perhaps understandable. Few people buy a 4K setup at current prices for a comedy movie.

Still, the overwhelming majority of people now have a display that accommodates 1080p material, and be it through a standalone player or a games console, the facility to play Blu-ray discs should they want to. The conclusion I fear to draw from the above is that fewer people want to. That we’re in an era where’s there’s no guarantee at all that a film even with a tailwind behind it will get a DVD release – it’s taken acclaimed British horror Double Date two years to be picked up – yet alone a Blu-ray.

What’s disappointing is these releases don’t always align with the US. That in America, the likes of Booksmart, Blinded By The Light (a British film!) and Ma will be available to buy on Blu. Late Night, though, doesn’t look like it’s getting a disc release at all in the States, perhaps understandable given that the movie was picked up by Amazon for distribution at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

At least swimming against all of this there are boutique labels treating us to deluxe Blu-ray releases of older films, and new labels such as Sparky that are putting out the likes of The Fight and the aforementioned Double Date.

It looks like Blu-ray, though, is very much at the coal face of the decline in physical media sales.

Total physical entertainment sales, according to numbers from Kantar, have dropped by 19% in the period from April to June of this year, with Amazon increasing its market share to gobble up one in every four pounds spent on the likes of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays. Supermarkets are getting a lesser return from discs, and thus my local Asda – which is hardly on the small size – has reduced its selection of Blu-rays in favour of DVDs taking heavy priority. Again, sadly understandable, given that DVDs account for well over half of movie disc sales.

There’s no real happy ending in sight to this story, save for observing that the market has reached a point where a physical release at all is – outside of the major blockbusters – starting to feel like a treat. Major studios are putting out fewer catalogue deluxe titles directly, and even then, of pretty mainstream classics. There are whispers that in the next few years, a physical media release simply will cease to be cost-effective at all.

Countering this come numbers from BASE declaring that Avengers: Endgame has become the fastest-selling digital platform release of all time, a week or two ahead of its disc debut.

That’s where the profit is, that’s where the money is, and that’s where the risk isn’t.

As such, all us humble customers who do think physical media is the best way forward can do is buy the discs, and hope they keep coming…

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