UK digital video sales soar during lockdown, boosted by a mix of new blockbusters and timeless classics

A mix of blockbuster releases and timeless classics saw UK digital film sales climb to record levels during lockdown.

Digital film and TV sales in the UK soared to record levels during the 12-week lockdown period, new data by the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE) has revealed.  

Spend on digital 'buy and keep' downloads grew 87% between March 28 and late June to a year-to-date value of £113 million, according to figures compiled by The Official Charts Company. 

Research company Kantar also reports that 1.8 million new customers either bought or rented digital content during lockdown, taking the number of consumers transacting digitally in that period to a record high of 5.5 million. For comparison, 14.7 million people made digital purchases or rentals in the 52 weeks to January 12, 2020.

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BASE partly attributes the surge in digital downloading to a blockbuster-filled release slate during the lockdown period, including Jumanji: The Next Level, Frozen 2, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, 1917, Onward and Knives Out. 

A further boost came from a limited selection of titles releasing earlier than planned due to the closure of cinemas, including Bloodshot, Birds Of Prey and Sonic The Hedgehog. 

Digital customers also sought out familiar classics during the 12-week period; popular titles included Forrest Gump, Grease, Top Gun, Apocalypse Now and titles from the Harry Potter franchise.

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Sales of physical product such Blu-ray and 4k UHD discs - which had been in decline prior to lockdown - remained steady despite the closure of high street shops, accounting for 49% of the market. 

Liz Bales, Chief Executive at BASE, said: “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.

“Historically, home entertainment has proved robust in times of economic crisis and the addition of a meaningful number of new customers to digital transactional, alongside the resilience of the disc market, means the video category at large has plenty to build upon even as consumer confidence and discretionary spend potentially become challenged as we look to the future.”

The Official Film Chart is posted here weekly on OfficialCharts.com.