DVD Isn't As Dead As You May Think, Says Director Kevin Costner

We've been hearing for years about the death of DVD and Blu-ray. The physical media market is not what it once was, with hardcore collectors driving new business and impressive new 4K releases of classics and new movies aimed at a small but loyal section of consumers. Sales of DVD and Blu-ray discs were down 25% in 2023, even though home entertainment — driven in large part by VOD — was up 16.8% to $43 billion. Heck, even Disney is shutting down the Disney Movie Club this year while handing its physical media business to Sony. But the death of DVD has been greatly exaggerated, at least according to Oscar-winning "Dances With Wolves" director Kevin Costner.

The acclaimed actor and filmmaker is gearing up to release the first part of his ambitious, four-part Western "Horizon: An American Saga" this summer. During a recent interview with Deadline, the filmmaker was asked about risking $100 million (likely more by the end of it all) of his own money to make the films. This is not unlike what Francis Ford Coppola is doing with his dream film "Megalopolis." Specifically, Costner was asked if he's worried about audiences not returning for "Chapter 2" after seeing "Chapter 1." For Costner, it's not just about the box office — he's content to play the long game here:

"The reality of that is the film lives and whatever are the viewing habits, I own it for the rest of its life. Would you want to own these two pieces for the rest of your life? Hell yeah. And every five years, license them around the world. Relicense them here in America. The difference is I own that, because of the risk I've taken. Why is Vegas there? It's for all the people that lose to the house. Why are studios there? It's because those movies continue to make money, well beyond their opening weekends."

DVD is not dead, and Kevin Costner explains why

I am, more than anything else, a box office analyst. The theatrical run is unquestionably a hugely important part of the equation for many movies, as it will be for "Horizon." That said, most movies don't straight-up profit in theaters. They rely on VOD, streaming rights, international sales, and yes, DVD/Blu-ray sales to get them into profit over time. Costner is keenly aware of that. When the interviewer next asked, "Even with the death of DVD?" Costner illustrated pretty clearly that physical media is far from dead with some behind-the-scenes reasoning:

"DVD is not dead, at all. That's what they'd have you believe. Maybe it's not making the same amount of money, but just try to go ask for that from the studio. They won't give that up. A lot of people that like my movies, they can't get to a theater, and they're waiting for that moment. You can't make your film for the opening weekend. You have to make it for its life."

Sure, the glory days of DVD in the early 2000s may be over, but as Costner explains, no studio is going to give up the rights to those physical media sales. Even though Disney is letting Sony take over production of its DVD and Blu-ray discs, the studio still understood that enough people wanted to buy "Prey" on Blu-ray even though it was readily available on Hulu. They released it on Blu-ray and, as a result, didn't leave that money on the table. Costner seems to have a strong point.

Retailers such as Best Buy are no longer selling DVDs and Blu-rays in stores anymore. That's a shame. But Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" was sold out for weeks after it was released on disc last year. Boutique labels such as Shout! Factory and Arrow have healthy businesses. Sony was more than happy to take over Disney's physical media business. DVD may not be the lifeblood of the industry anymore, but it sure as hell ain't dead.

"Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1" hits theaters on June 28, 2024.