Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” made headlines again recently when, within one week after hitting disc on November 21st, it was completely sold out of 4K UHD copies.
Universal is printing more, but even so such sales of physical media are unprecedented. That is until events of the past year have changed that perception somewhat.
Multiple streaming services have now demonstrated their willingness to abruptly pull film and TV series from their services with little to no warning. At the same time, distributors and retailers have been pulling out of entire specific markets or removing discs from their physical stores and potentially digital stores soon.
For a while, there’s been a feeling that the days of discs could be genuinely numbered, and the success of “Oppenheimer” on 4K disc is seen as something of a response to that – especially in the wake of Nolan’s comment in which he said people can have it at home and “no evil streaming service can come steal it from you”.
Several filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro and Edgar Wright have subsequently come forward to join the call to protect the format, that includes James Cameron who tells Variety in a feature piece about physical media’s fate this week:
“The streamers are denying us any access whatsoever to certain films, and I think people are responding with their natural reaction, which is ‘I’m going to buy it, and I’m going to watch it any time I want.’”
Cameron himself is seeing the problem played out this week as the digital release of his remasters of “The Abyss” and “Aliens” has been a bit of a mess with services taking days to get the new versions properly included and doing so in a haphazard way.
Even now several days after release, the ‘Special Edition’ versions of both films remain frustratingly only available in HD, not 4K. It’s hoped the disc versions coming in March won’t suffer such issues.
Even so, the sad news is overall annual physical media consumption has declined with one analytics firm telling the trade that in the past five years the number of people who watched DVD/Blu-rays over a 12-month period has decreased from 49% to 30%.
It has also been confirmed that “Oppenheimer” 4K discs represent 40% of all of the film’s home entertainment sales – a new industry high.