The third week of 2021 marked another slow week for new DVD and Blu-ray releases at retail. Best Buy ran its online ad for 4K and Blu-ray discounts for a third consecutive week.
Target, which last week didn’t list any DVD or Blu-ray news in its weekly ad circular, this week devoted a page to a “Best of 2020 Sale.” Most of the space was devoted to books, but there were four Blu-rays listed: Disney’s Frozen II and Mulan at $22.99, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker at $19.99, and Universal’s Trolls World Tour at $24.99.
A lack of major new releases heading into 2021 has left retailers with few options for refreshing their DVD and Blu-ray sections.
Some, such as Best Buy, continue to promote catalog sales on its website, such as Blu-ray Discs as low as $7.99. Best Buy did present the week’s modest slate of new releases, but without any exclusives attached to them.
The same can’t be said of Target, where some stores aren’t even bothering to update new-release shelves a timely fashion on Tuesdays. The chain’s Jan. 10 advertising circular didn’t include any section for DVD or Blu-ray releases, though it did tout 50% off hundreds of video games, exclusive vinyl albums and discounts on books.
Walmart also didn’t bring any exclusives to the new releases of Jan. 12, but at least had titles such as Paramount’s Spell and season two of the new “Twilight Zone” on its shelves.
The big retailers didn’t do much to acknowledge the new home video releases of Dec. 22. Many of the big chain stores in Southern California didn’t even bother to put them out, leaving new-release shelves looking barren and neglected as clerks focus on other things, such as mobile phones and video games.
In fact, Target listed Universal’s new The War With Grandpa Blu-ray as available only online.
However, with Christmas arriving at the end of the week, the major retailers did offer some of their typical seasonal discounts.
Target in its weekly ad circular advertised up to 20% off select movies.
Best Buy touted a sale on holiday Blu-rays that could be had for as low as $7.99 each. Best Buy also offered its inventory of exclusive Steelbooks for as low as $11.99 each.
The big title to hit shelves Dec. 15 was Warner’s Tenet, the latest mind-bending adventure from director Christopher Nolan. Both Best Buy and Walmart offered exclusive editions of the film.
Best Buy had its typical Steelbook offering, presenting a Tenet 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook combo pack for $34.99.
Walmart also dipped into its exclusives playbook, and with Tenet being a Warner title, offered a bare-bones DVD with unique box art and no extras for $16.96. The widely available special-edition DVD with an hour of behind-the-scenes extras wasn’t even stocked in some stores, but was available at Walmart.com for $19.96.
Target didn’t have a Tenet exclusive, but was running a promotion for 20% off DVDs and Blu-rays, excluding new releases.
A number of Target stores around Southern California continue to have issues stocking their new releases in a timely manner on Tuesday morning. At one store, where the shelves were empty at 8 a.m. but the display labels for all the new titles were in place, a clerk said the new titles likely wouldn’t be stocked until late afternoon, as they weren’t in a rush to bring out the boxes of new product from the stockroom, even for customers who asked about them specifically.
There were also reports of issues with Target’s app feature allowing shoppers to pay online and pick the item up in the store. One customer looking for the Tenet 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray said he had several stores cancel his order on the claim that they were out of stock, but when he went to the actual store, they had plenty of copies on the shelf.
Best Buy Dec. 8 continued its practice of offering a slate of exclusive new Steelbook editions to make up for an otherwise dull Blu-ray and DVD release slate.
Best Buy had a Steelbook edition of Lionsgate’s new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack of Total Recall, at $18.99.
Also new is Best Buy’s Steelbook for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition of HBO’s Westworld: Season 3, even though the standard release came out Nov. 17. Best Buy’s Steelbook was listed at $46.99 upon release.
Best Buy also has a Blu-ray Steelbook of Funimation’s My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, a movie that first arrived on Blu-ray in March 2019. The Steelbook edition, offered for $25.99 by Best Buy, will apparently be widely available Feb. 21, according to Amazon.
Other chains weren’t so quick to line up exclusives following Black Friday. The lineup of top titles each week has gotten so anemic it seems that many of the big chains have left their DVD and Blu-ray shelves in a state of neglect, not even bothering to update the displays for weeks at a time without anything major to hit the shelves.
Outside of Best Buy, the most notable home video deal was that Target offered 20% off movie, TV show and book boxed sets.
For the home video titles released Dec. 1, Best Buy again offered exclusive Steelbook editions for several of them.
Among the biggest were Steelbook 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray boxed sets for Warner’s “Middle-Earth” fantasy series — “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogies, at $119.99 each. The boxes had both the theatrical and extended versions of each film on 4K Ultra HD in their own Steelbook case, plus a larger Steelbook box for the trilogy.
In addition, The Lord of the Rings 4K Ultra HD trilogy was also offered as a $149.99 gift set with a collectible ring on a necklace.
Other new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbooks for the week include HBO’s Chernobyl at $39.99, and Paramount’s Arrival at $34.99.
Also, as a holdover from Black Friday sales, Best Buy is selling Steelbook movies for as low as $7.99.
Meanwhile, Target is offering up to 30% off holiday music and movies.
Target also has an exclusive $129.99 DVD set of Modern Family: The Complete Series.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this year’s Black Friday retail shopping frenzy, in which hordes of shoppers typically camp out overnight waiting for stores to open early on the morning after Thanksgiving — or, in recent years, start shopping right after they finish their turkey dinners.
Not this year.
With COVID-19 surging in what health experts are calling a third wave of the disease, none of the big retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day — not even Walmart, which used to be open all day, or Target and Best Buy, which opened for business in the late afternoon or at midnight.
The big retailers also began offering their deep discounts several weeks before Black Friday, often targeting online shoppers with Web-only specials. And the year’s hottest gift item, Sony’s new PlayStation 5 video game console, saw gamers glued to the Internet to watch for alerts on Twitter and other social media channels about the next wave of consoles available at the various retailers, mostly for online purchase.
“One thing that is happening, and has been happening for awhile, is the past couple of years, we’ve seen Black Friday deals moving more and more online,” Amir Neto, director of Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University, told USA Today. “This year, there are more incentives to maintain or expand this trend.”
Adobe Analytics on Nov. 27 reported that online spending on Thanksgiving Day rose by nearly 22% to reach a new record of $5.1 billion, from $4.1 billion last year. The research firm said November and December online sales are expected to jump 33% this year, totaling $189 billion, including $10.3 billion on Black Friday.
Aside from the big retail players, Family Video, the last remaining national chain of dedicated video stores, sent out an email early Friday morning offering discounts of up to 75% on Warner Bros. DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD titles, including Aquaman, The Dark Knight, Inception, Doctor Sleep, 12 Strong and Annabelle. “You will not find better Black Friday deals on Blu-rays, DVDs, and 4K Blu-rays from Warner Bros. anywhere else!” the Family Video email read, noting that the sale ends Nov. 30.
Meanwhile, with physical stores having offered discounts all week, reports on Black Friday itself suggest the early rush to physical retail stores is more of a trickle this year. A Target store in Costa Mesa, Calif., was practically empty shortly after 7 a.m. on Nov. 27. “It looks like any other day,” said one observer.
Target is running a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on books, movies and music. Blu-rays and DVDs could be had for as low as $4, $7 and $9. Signs were placed not only in the electronics area, but in some stores displays were put in the clothing section in the center of the store and at checkout. One customer in Mission Viejo, Calif., noted that the sales weren’t as prevalent as previous years.
At a Costa Mesa Best Buy, there were fewer than two dozen people waiting in a socially distant line, a far cry from prior years.
In Oceanside, Calif., a Walmart was a little busier, but the traditional DVD and Blu-ray Disc “dump bins,” featuring catalog movie titles priced as low as $2 to $5, were conspicuously absent. “It’s really slow,” a clerk said.
Chicago resident Maria Lopez, who often shops on Black Friday, said she was only visiting one store this year out of concerns of contracting the coronavirus. Lopez bought a 42-inch television from Best Buy.
“It’s so sad,” Lopez told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve been out since 6 a.m. and there were no long lines. It’s definitely not the same like years prior.”
And yet the National Retail Federation earlier in the week forecast that total holiday sales during November and December would be up by as much as 5.2% from the same period last year, generating $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion in revenue. The data, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compares with a 4% increase in 2019, and an average holiday sales gain of 3.5% over the past five years.
“We know this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail trade group, said in a statement. “Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year.”
NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.
“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.
Redbox is participating in the Black Friday discounting frenzy with specials across all its platforms, physical as well as online. Through the weekend, the retailer is offering customers who rent two discs at its more than 40,000 kiosks 50 cents off, as well as “price drops” on digital rentals through Redbox On Demand. Redbox also is hosting a used movie sale at “select kiosks,” selling off previously viewed copies of films such as Trolls World Tour ($3.99), The Tax Collector ($5.99) and Justice League ($3.99).
On the streaming front, NBCUniversal as a Black Friday special offered 20% off access to the Peacock subscription streaming service, while Hulu launched a discounted $1.99 monthly promotion at midnight on Thanksgiving Day. The campaign gives new and returning subscribers 12-month access to the ad-supported Hulu option, which amounts to a $48 savings over the recently reduced $5.99 monthly fee (from $7.99). The ad-free subscription plan remains priced at $11.99 monthly.
Additional reporting by John Latchem and Stephanie Prange
Preparations for annual Black Friday sales left retailers mostly ignoring the new DVD and Blu-ray disc releases of Nov. 24, not that the list had many notable titles to begin with.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and a desire to cut down on the massive crowds that typically show up for the bargains offered the day after Thanksgiving, stores have been offering special discounts for most of the month already. This week, however, has seen merchandise configurations more akin to what a Black Friday would typically look like.
For instance, a Target in Tustin, Calif., set up cardboard displays of catalog DVDs and Blu-rays near the front of the store in what is usually an area for women’s clothing. Target is running a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on books, movies and music. Blu-rays and DVDs could be had for as low as $4, $7 and $9.
A Best Buy in Costa Mesa, Calif., had a sizeable line the evening of Nov. 24, which is likely more due to a resurgence of pandemic restrictions limiting the number of guests allowed in the store. Best Buy’s deals include select Blu-rays for $5.99; Blu-rays and 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays for $7.99 or $9.99; Disney movies starting at $9.99; and collectible Steelbooks for $14.99.
Among the new disc releases Nov. 17, the most notable retail exclusive was Best Buy’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of Disney’s The New Mutants.
Best Buy offered the metal-encased edition for $34.99.
Disney’s long-running issues with Amazon seem to still be in effect, however, as the online retailer did not have New Mutant discs available in any capacity, even through third-party sellers. Amazon also still isn’t selling last week’s release of the live-action Mulan, which is offered only through third-party sellers.
Disney released its live-action Mulan on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Nov. 10, having announced the street date just four days before. The film famously bypassed theatrical distribution due to the coronavirus pandemic in lieu of several PVOD options tested by the studio.
The disc version arrived with a couple of retailers offering the typical kind of exclusive editions they usually do.
At Target, the Mulan 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack was offered as a limited-edition with a pack-in gallery book for $34.99.
Best Buy offered its usual Steelbook edition for Mulan, with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack priced at $34.99.
Interestingly, discs of the new Mulan were not listed at Amazon.com prior to their release date, and even after, the only copies that show up in searches are offered by third-party sellers.
Among other promotions, Best Buy is giving fans of HBO’s “Westworld” a chance to preorder the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of the third season and get Steelbooks of the first two seasons for $9.99 each. According to the Best Buy website, however, the season one Steelbook is sold out. The season three Steelbook is listed with a Dec. 8 street date, although the non-exclusive versions of the season arrive in all stores Nov. 17.
Target was running a buy-two-get-one-free mix-and-match deal with movies, books, music, video games, board games and craft activities.