Why Declining Sales Of Blu-ray & DVDs Isn’t Just Bad For The Industry

Could DVD and Blu-ray be under threat from the rise of digital media and illegal downloads?

Sky News highlighted the increasing concern over poor sales of DVD and Blu-ray releases. Since even before the recession, sales have been dropping at an alarming rate, with many consumers turning to buying digital downloads or worse, watching films illegally. High street entertainment store HMV have taken significant losses with fears remaining over the future of the fledgling retailer. If the store was to close its doors for good, there would be no dedicated retailers of entertainment left on the high street. The poor sales can't be pinpointed to a single reason, but rather are likely the result of a number of different issues. Firstly there€™s the aforementioned recession which has forced consumers to think twice when parting with their cash. Secondly, the easy access to online content has eliminated the need for buying physical media. Thirdly - a far more crucial point than the industry would like to acknowledge - consumers are becoming disenfranchised by Hollywood€™s desire to churn out remakes, sequels and gimmicky 3-D blockbusters. There€™s also the rising cost of cinema tickets and DVDs, with many being tempted by the idea of illegal downloads rather than parting with their cash. There€™s no doubt about it, it€™s wrong to watch films this way and it isn't good for the future of the industry. But sadly, its becoming understandable as to why some people have resorted to doing so. A night out at the cinema has become expensive, and when you consider the aforementioned increase in mediocre remakes and sequels, it€™s harder to justify some films being worth our time, let alone our money. I€™ve always been enthusiastic about the importance of seeing a film on the big screen as a shared social experience - but even I find it hard not to feel increasingly short-changed. Earlier this year as I left the cinema having spent £20 on an evening watching the awful Scream 4, I felt like I had been physically mugged by the filmmakers. In fact, I hated the film so much, I bitterly wished that I had actually just downloaded it to watch in my pants with the ability to turn it off halfway through. The point here is that while the industry and media are quick to blame consumers for illegally downloading films and labeling those who do so as criminals, it€™s a complex issue in which the industry holds certain responsibilities as well. In the same way that TV viewers complain when they see their license fee money being misused, film fans won€™t be taken for idiots - especially if they have many options at their disposal to avoid being cheated out of their hard earned cash. But while it€™s fair to say that the film industry needs to keep things fresh for audiences to actually part with their cash, there will always be those who sadly choose to simply download anything and everything. Without audiences making the effort to actually see films or buy the DVDs, movies which actually stand out as original, interesting or unique will be ignored and result in studios refusing to take risks. Many of this years big summer blockbusters such as the nostalgic Super 8 & the refreshingly intelligent Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes deserved to be seen on the big screen - not a monitor. Sadly the increasing amount of people deciding to simply download or stream films illegally has resulted in the current industry slump which threatens not only the future of physical media but also the future of high street retailers. I€™m not adverse to the idea of streaming media, in fact I think it serves a great purpose and gives viewers the freedom to watch films they might never had done without the convenience. The concern is the increasingly likely prospect of an entirely digital future, in which physical media and high street outlets become defunct thanks to the rise of online media. For me there€™s something special about actually owning a collection of films - I don't think this could ever be replicated with a digital library. When I was younger I used to love wandering around video stores and looking at different VHS artwork - often for films I wasn€™t old enough to watch. I used to scare myself by looking at the lurid and often terrifying cases for films like Nightmare On Elm Street or Friday The 13th. When I was actually old enough to watch the films, they were never as scary as the images my mind would conjure up from simply looking at the cases. This early love for VHS led to me to start building a film collection which soon flourished further with the rise of DVD. What was really great about the switch from VHS to DVD other than the improved quality was that this was a format specifically tailored for real film fans. Suddenly it was the norm for films to include extra content in a similar way to the Laserdisc before it. This increase in supplemental content, has led to many superb and definitive behind the scenes documentaries such as those on Jaws, The Thing and Blade Runner. If digital media continues to overtake DVD or Blu-ray in popularity, there's a real danger that companies will stop producing quality bonus features. If the Sky News article is to be believed, the high numbers of people opting for digital media rather than building a physical library means it€™s highly possible that we are slowly but surely heading towards a future consisting mainly of online media. Gone will be the days of diving into a lavish 12 disk box-set of 24 - complete with out-takes of Kiefer Sutherland torturing even more terrorists. Instead, It€™ll be watchable at the click of a button without taking up any room on your shelf€. Call me mad, but there€™s something sad about that thought. ___________ Do you still like to keep a collection, or do you now find yourself leaning towards watching content digitally ?

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Cult horror enthusiast and obsessive videogame fanatic. Stephen considers Jaws to be the single greatest film of all-time and is still pining over the demise of Sega's Dreamcast. As well regularly writing articles for WhatCulture, Stephen also contributes reviews and features to Ginx TV.