Will Advanced Viewing Formats Boost Movie Sales in 2018?

Studios plan to double down on their strategies to get moviegoers to buy films in 2018, but audiences’ love for streaming platforms might be too far gone.
D Blu Ray Spines CNET

Studios plan to double down on their strategies to get moviegoers to buy films in 2018, but audiences’ love for streaming platforms might be too far gone.

With the new year approaching, studios like Disney, Universal, Paramount, and Warner Bros. continue to find innovative ways to entice film fans into purchasing movies, either on DVD, Blu-Ray, or Digital to own rather than renting them or streaming them. Even though 2017 showed that subscriptions to streaming platforms are increasing as movie purchases continue to decrease, studios believe it’s still possible to attract audiences through advanced viewing formats. The projected growth of 4K devices alone are estimated to grow much more in 2018 and triple within the next five years, according to a recent Variety article. Other options in the digital world like Disney’s Movies Anywhere has also had decent success so far. So, it’s sort of clear why these studios continue to carry their hope of boosting movie sales in the new year. At this point though, is it really enough to make an impact long-term?

Sure, these advancements are attractive, and personally, I’m still one who enjoys buying movie discs when I can afford it and owning my own film library, digital or physical, but looking at the numbers, the majority prefers occasional viewing on streaming platforms. And the convenience of it is hard to argue. For the average moviegoer to the most dedicated of film fans, sometimes it’s truly difficult to justify spending $20 or more on a movie when it’s streaming on Netflix for about $10 a month along with hundreds of other titles.

DGE numbers show significant growth in streaming subscriptions since 2011, which only appears to be getting higher each year landing at more than 40% in 2017. That’s a big leap from 2011’s 3.8%. While disc and digital sales have not exactly plummeted completely, with DVD and Blu-Ray sales accounting for about 24% of home entertainment sales this year, that’s nowhere near where they were in 2011, which was about 46%.

But the studios remain positive, even when it’s clear they are slowly losing the game to streaming platforms, and possibly avoiding confronting this problem head-on until they have no other choice. Eventually, they will. Disney has already started creating its own content streaming program, which will probably be released sometime in 2019. For now, however, they’re putting their hope into people buying content that will fit advanced formats like 4K HDR, but if the biggest perk of this is better picture quality and a slightly more advanced viewing experience, then more work will have to be done to attract audiences at large, since the majority will probably see it as an overly expensive novelty that will prove itself irrelevant in the years to come as technology continues to get advance rapidly. After all, Blu-Ray eventually became the wide-spread entity that it is, but it’s only real competition at the time was DVD’s, and its short-lived competition with HD DVDs. Now though, it’s clear how Blu-Ray is currently struggling amongst everything else.

Meanwhile, services like Movies Anywhere and the possibility of virtual and augmented reality programs seem a little more promising. Movies Anywhere is basically like a Netflix or Hulu in term of its ability to stream from any device. It’s just the fact that your   Movies Anywhere library is one that is bought rather than rented or subscribed to. If virtual reality kicks off the way it’s been talked about for a few years now, that could be the innovation to bring movie sales back into the game. It would offer something truly attractive, worth trying, that nowhere else has. And offering something different or additional has been the key to movie sales in general over the past years, offering Apple exclusives or DVD commentary that could not be found anywhere else. Offering a Blu-Ray disc with a digital code has also been an effective tactic, offering a sort of two for one deal.

Still, none of these address what is probably the main issue putting such a divide between streaming vs. buying, which is the expense. And that’s not anything that can really be solved. The whole point of streaming is the subscription aspect of it, only having to pay a small fee each month for an entire library of films. It’s also not like studios don’t make money from streaming platforms. So why the need to push disc and digital sales?

That’s where it gets a little complicated. At one point, DVD sales accounted for a majority of movie earnings, and for years studios have been working to close the large gap between theatrical release and home video release in the attempt to keep movies fresh in audience’s minds, ultimately encouraging sales. Platforms like Netflix and Hulu do, of course, pay for the films they stream, but the system is more complex than that, and the numbers not exactly comparable to that of disc and digital sales directly.

As of right now, the studios’ plans to boost sales in 2018 appear to be much of the same, except possibly with more vigor this coming year, which doesn’t exactly seem like it’s working a whole lot but a hope they still carry nonetheless. This is not to say their plans for bolstering viewing platforms and home entertainment technology is unreasonable. It has a chance to thrive if they really buckle down on it and offer something fresh, affordable, and worth it for audiences. If the idea is to put their chips behind technologies like 4K, then the plan to make more films accessible in that format sounds about right, especially considering 4K TVs in 2018 will be offering smart TV apps like Netflix and Hulu. And the Netflix streaming model may not exactly last forever either, with something different and more innovative eventually coming along in the years to come as it’s competitors continue to work on alternatives. For now, however, movies aren’t selling as they once did, and sad as it may be, it’s not a sure thing that 2018 will change that.

Natalie Mokry: Film lover and pop culture enthusiast.