Streaming platforms have been the focus of entertainment companies since Netflix skyrocketed in popularity in the mid-2000s. Now, more people have a subscription to various streaming services than cable, and original content is just as popular as big blockbuster-style films.
However, we may be at a tipping point for the era of streaming, with more platforms rising and distributing content across multiple apps and websites versus a select few. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Paramount+, Apple TV, Peacock, and Max are just a few popular streaming platforms, with content being moved, removed, or added constantly. Netflix has seen massive success with Stranger Things, while Disney+ has pushed out several Star Wars and MCU projects directly to their service.
Recently, Disney announced that while it would be merging Hulu and Disney+ in some capacity, it would also start removing content from both platforms, leaving many fans to fully realize: in the age of streaming, if a show or movie is removed, it’s gone forever. It’s led many fans to draw similarities to the Disney Vault marketing gimmick of the ’90s and 2000s, but with the major difference that direct-to-streaming content isn’t physically available anywhere, making it near impossible to find once it’s removed from its streaming host.
Avatar: The Way of Water may be a direct answer to that, and may shift the tide of streaming’s popularity. The sequel to 2009’s Avatar is currently the third-highest-grossing movie of all time, only sitting behind the first film and Avengers: Endgame (2019). The sequel has a runtime of over three hours and will be released on Disney+ with an extended version on June 7. Just two weeks after that though, the film will see a major physical release.
The Way of Water will be released on 4K UHD, Blu-ray 3D, regular Blu-ray, and DVD on June 20, with over three hours of bonus features to be included with the physical copies. While certainly not the only physical release of a recent film, Avatar seems to be leaning hard into the medium, with several versions of its release including multiple forms of Blu-ray and an Ultimate Collector’s Edition. With the rise in streaming, DVD and Blu-ray seemed to be on the way out the way VHS has long been gone.
With Avatar focusing on a physical release alongside its Disney+ release, it could be the beginning of a resurgence for physical media. There’s a cost-benefit argument to be made that while physical copies can be expensive, you’re paying specifically for content you want and once you own it, it can’t be taken away like it can with streaming. As the Disney Vault is being revived for Disney+, it seems physical media might be too.
Do you think physical media like DVDs and Blu-rays are coming back? Or have they ever really left? Tell Inside the Magic your thoughts in the comments below!