OPINION: Disney ending physical media sales is timely and necessary, but not without concerns for fans
The era of the DVD and Blu-ray may be coming to an end with news Disney has chosen to stop selling them in one country. Sky News reports Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be the last time the entertainment conglomerate will release disc versions of films in Australia.
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While every market is different, Sky reports declining sales and the increase in the popularity of streaming services means it’s no longer worthwhile to Disney. There’s no word yet on whether Disney, who owns Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and many Fox properties, will repeat the move around other territories like the US and UK, or whether it’s specific to the land down under. Given Disney’s influence and ownership concentration, any decision could soon be mirrored across the industry.
Of course, if you’re a company also pouring billions in resources into a streaming service like Disney+, that is currently losing subscribers, this is probably the way to go. Likewise, from an environmental perspective, this might be overdue. The amount of plastics and chemicals that goes into creating physical discs and boxes does seem a little unnecessary in this era.
For instance, I just had a massive clean-out at my mum’s house, which had become my own personal facility locker over the years. There were literally hundreds of DVDs and Blu-rays I no longer had any use for. DVDs and Blu-rays I spent decent money on at the time, Steelbook Editions ‘n all.
They’re not worth anything of note. There’s a second-hand store in Shrewsbury that sells entire Blu-ray box sets for a couple of quid at most. My collection became little more than charity shop fodder, because I was almost certain I would have never played them again. To think of how many DVDs and Blu-rays are just gathering dust makes me believe the time is right for to sunset the formats, rather then putting effort into printing and selling more and more of them.
The less said about my remaining VHS tapes, the better.
What about the extras?
However, there is cause for concern. Physical media is the only option for people who don’t have the streaming capabilities. It’s eminently swappable and can be picked up on the cheap – as I recently found out! This isn’t vinyl we’re talking about here. These things aren’t holding and value and, right now, they’re certainly not en vogue.
There are other things to consider too. These special edition discs are beloved by movie and TV fanatics who love to sop up as much content as possible. Studios would put extra effort into filming that content for the special editions – the directors commentaries, the interviews, the mini-documentaries, the behind the scenes footage, and so on.
I remember getting my hands on the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition four DVD (per movie!) collections way back when. The amount of content was overwhelming. Just when you thought you’d seen it all, there was another folder to open. Those discs are among the few I haven’t parted with yet. They have sentimental value, if not physical value.
We don’t see as much of that in the digital era. A quick look at the iTunes Movie store listings for Guardians, The Little Mermaid, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and John Wick 4 doesn’t offer a huge amount in the way of special features.
I’d really hate for the studios to stop making these kinds of features and commentaries because there’s no value to be had from special edition DVDs and Blu-rays anymore.
Finally, it should be said that as tech enthusiasts who champion the best experiences, they’re something to be said for the physical 4K Blu-ray rather than the Disney+ version. Just sayin’
It’s a tough one to balance all of the interests out and suit all parties in the discussion, but overall, it’s probably the right decision to ditch the discs.