For years now we’ve been hearing about the death of physical media. Where major newspapers once carried weekly DVD reviews, the only time the shiny discs seem to make an appearance these days is as part of doom-laden stories about John Lewis de-listing DVD players or HMV going bust (again). But are things really so bad?
Admittedly, when you look at the big picture it doesn’t look especially hopeful. A recent report from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) revealed a whopping 48 per cent decline in global physical media sales between 2014 and 2018 - in monetary terms, that equates to a drop in value from $25.2bn to $13.1bn. And here in the UK, Captain Marvel (opens in new tab) can jump straight in to the number one spot on the Official Film Chart, one week ahead of its disc release, based solely on digital download sales.
Look closer, though, and things aren’t quite so clear cut. While the major Hollywood studios are certainly shifting their focus away from discs and towards downloads and streaming, there has also been a noticeable growth in boutique Blu-ray labels catering to die-hard film fans, whose interests go beyond the latest box-office blockbusters.
Indie distributors such as Arrow Films, Indicator, the BFI, 88 Films, Eureka and the Criterion Collection have made it their mission to raid studio vaults in order to serve up well-stocked Blu-ray releases of films that would typically end up buried deep in the catalogues of streaming platforms, waiting to be found only by those actively looking for them. And even then, do you really think that Netflix or Amazon Prime would be willing to splash out on a brand-new restoration of an obscure ’80s slasher or an acclaimed old ’60s Bengali drama? Well, those boutique labels do it all the time.
It just goes to show that if you put enough care and attention into curating a Blu-ray release, film fans will line up to buy it – whether it's Apocalypse Now, High Noon or Hell Comes to Frogtown. So, far from being in its death throes, I’d go so far as to argue that the Blu-ray market is not only alive and kicking, it’s more exciting than ever. Or is it just me?
Each month our sister publication Total Film magazine (opens in new tab)argues a polarising movie opinion and gives you the opportunity to agree or disagree. Let us know what you think about this one in the comments below and read on for more.
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