Consumers stuck at home due to coronavirus pandemic quarantines gave home entertainment a boost as a valuable tool to pass the time. While digital delivery was the main beneficiary, physical media got a brief boost as well as a result of impulse buys and deep discount bins providing quick and easy entertainment for bored shoppers.
However, as studios began delaying their blockbuster releases and new-release options began to dwindle over the summer, the list of the year’s top-selling movies on disc became dominated by movies from 2019 released in the first few months of 2020.
For those titles that did get a release as 2020 rolled on, the general move toward digital delivery made it less likely physical media sales of those titles could match the tallies of the year’s early successes. The pandemic further limited options for shoppers wanting physical media by restricting store access and hampering production and distribution channels. The number of replication facilities already being down to a minimum due to the years-long decline of the disc market meant initial runs of discs couldn’t be mass-produced in the same numbers they had before.
Seven of the year’s top 10 titles have been on the list since April. Eight have been on the list since May. And the top four titles have been the same since March, and in the same order since April.
Here are the top selling movies in terms of combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales as reported by NPD Group’s VideoScan tracking service. (Updated Jan. 12, 2021)
1. Frozen II (Disney) — The 2013 original Frozen had been the highest-grossing non-photorealistic animated film of all time until the sequel topped it with $1.45 billion worldwide as 2019 came to a close. And with the first film among the most successful DVD and Blu-ray sellers of the past decade, the sales success of Frozen II came as no surprise, and it has pretty much been the year’s top seller since it hit shelves Feb. 25. It spent three weeks at No. 1 from February into March, making it the top seller for both months. And it had enough to secure the year’s top spot before it became available on streaming service Disney+ March 15, the studio offering it to subscribers months ahead of schedule as a result of the pandemic.
2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney/Lucasfilm) — The ninth and supposedly final episode of the “Skywalker” saga earned $515 million at the domestic box office, the lowest of Disney’s three sequels George Lucas’ classic “Star Wars” films. The March 31 disc release of Rise of Skywalker arrived just as pandemic lockdowns were taking hold. That and tepid fan response to the sequel trilogy in general likely prevented consumers from buying it in the types of droves the original and prequel films received upon their home video releases. As with Frozen II, most of its top 10 sales strength came from its initial release, as it hasn’t been among the top titles shoppers were picking up later in the year. It still managed to top weekly sales for three weeks in April, and was the top seller overall for that month.
3. Joker (Warner) — The controversial comic book adaptation based on the famed Batman villain kicked off the year as the top seller for the month of January after earning $335 million from U.S. theaters and more than $1 billion worldwide. On the weekly chart, however, it was No. 1 only for the week after its Jan. 7 disc debut, and again 10 months later when it led Thanksgiving week disc sales.
4. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony Pictures) — The third “Jumanji” movie didn’t quite match the levels of its 2017 predecessor, but at $320 million domestically was still a massive hit, and has been a consistent staple of the home entertainment top 20 since its March 17 disc release.
5. 1917 (Universal) — Director Sam Mendes’ artfully crafted and very personal tale of a pair of couriers trying to prevent a hopeless battle during World War I picked up a number of Oscars prior to its March 24 disc debut, and has been one of the more popular discs as the pandemic continued, particularly resonating during the weeks of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
6. Trolls World Tour (Universal/DreamWorks) — DreamWorks Animation’s sequel to 2016’s Trolls was the first big hit of the pandemic era, as it mostly eschewed theaters in favor of a premium VOD strategy that reportedly earned it more than $100 million. After it arrived on DVD and Blu-ray July 7, it was the top seller for the month of July, and has spent a combined four weeks at No. 1 — two weeks in mid-July and two at the end of August, when it danced into the yearly top 10. It is thus far the only disc release of a post-pandemic theatrical or VOD title to climb into the top 10.
7. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount) — Released on disc May 19 after a better-than-expected $146 million domestic box office haul, Sonic would seem to have been the right disc at the right time as the highest-profile theatrical-to-disc amid a pandemic drought. It spent six consecutive weeks as the weekly No. 1 seller, the most since the original Frozen spent eight weeks at No. 1 in 2014. That made Sonic the top seller in June, but wasn’t enough to give it a spot in the top 10 sellers of the year just yet, a sign of how much the pandemic tilted sellthrough to the digital side of things. In fact, it wouldn’t be until November until it took its place among the year’s top 10 disc sellers, after getting an end-of-year boost when Paramount re-released it as a limited-edition Blu-ray with pack-in character poster cards.
8. Midway (Lionsgate, 2019) — As with 1917, director Roland Emmerich’s film about U.S. Naval campaigns in World War II from Pearl Harbor to mid-1942 likely benefited from the audience’s appreciation of the military as the pandemic raged on. The film, released on disc Feb. 18, hadn’t been much of a box office performer at the end of 2020, earning just $56.8 million domestically and $126.7 million worldwide against a reported $100 million budget.
9. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Disney) — The sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, continuing the story of the Sleeping Beauty villain as played by Angelina Jolie, earned $113.9 million domestically in its late-2019 theatrical run. It has been sliding down the top 10 disc sellers list since its Jan. 14 DVD and Blu-ray debut, ending January as the No. 2 title behind Joker. But it hasn’t gotten the same holiday sales season bump as Joker and some of the other titles on the list that have maintained their spots or moved up.
10. Bad Boys for Life (Sony Pictures) — The third “Bad Boys” film, coming 17 years after the second, was a big box office hit, earning $206 million domestically after bowing in theaters in January, which thanks to the pandemic held up as the top domestic grosser of the year. So it’s hardly a surprise that it would be a top seller on disc as well, arriving on DVD and Blu-ray during the early stages of the pandemic April 21.