Digital film purchases overtook physical media for the first time during lockdown

·Contributor
·2 min read
Sales of DVDs and Blu-rays have fallen below the figures for digital movie purchases. (Credit: Getty)
Sales of DVDs and Blu-rays have fallen below the figures for digital movie purchases. (Credit: Getty)

The effect of the coronavirus lockdown has pushed digital film purchases ahead of physical media, such as DVD and Blu-ray, for the first time ever.

New figures released by the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE) show that digital downloads accounted for 51% of the market, behind 49% for physical sales.

It’s a huge increase in the digital world’s share of the overall market, which was at 29% this time last year and 37% in the 12 weeks prior to the UK locking down in March.

Read more: Is Disney ruining its animated classics on Blu-ray?

Consumer spend on digital “buy and keep” purchases in the UK rose by 87% during lockdown, with 1.8 million new customers trying out the market, accounting for a year-to-date total spend of £113m by film-hungry Brits.

'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' scored huge digital sales. (Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)
'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' scored huge digital sales. (Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

Despite this, BASE described the disc market as “remarkably resilient” in the face of the closure of entertainment stores as a result of pandemic restrictions.

They pointed to the continued interest in premium formats — Blu-ray and 4K UHD — as vital in the fact the market has remained relatively flat year-on-year.

Read more: Films released early on digital due to coronavirus

The digital market, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the fact popular cinema releases were available for online purchase during the lockdown period.

This includes Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Rian Johnson’s whodunnit Knives Out and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Anna Kendrick returns in animated sequel 'Trolls: World Tour'. (Credit: Universal)
Anna Kendrick returns in animated sequel 'Trolls: World Tour'. (Credit: Universal)

Though the headline figures only cover “buy and keep” movies, BASE also pointed out that the rise of the premium video-on-demand model during lockdown was significant.

This was, of course, the strategy used to release movies that had been earmarked for cinemas, including Trolls World Tour, Military Wives and Scoob!.

PVOD accounted for 6.2% of all digital rentals during the lockdown and, as a result of their higher price point, they made up almost a fifth (19%) of the rental spend.

Read more: Why did Trolls World Tour cause such chaos?

Liz Bales, chief executive of BASE, said: “The digital transactional market has been a beneficiary of the fact that the government’s ‘Stay Home’ policy provided the right environment for it to flourish.

“With new release and catalogue content available instantly and without subscription, digital content has been able to play an important role for many in providing some much-needed light relief from the reality of lockdown.”

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