Just when you thought that Marvel’s 2019 cinematic triumph ‘Avengers: Endgame’ had run out of records to break, it’s gone and shattered another one. Not content with being the highest-grossing movie of all time (having driven off the James Cameron classic ‘Avatar’ to secure that position), it’s now crossing over into the second phase of its existence. The film stayed at movie theaters for longer than any other movie in living memory because people still wanted to pay to come and see it on the big screen for months after its release. Now it’s becoming available to own at home – and it’s in that new format that it’s making history yet again.
The superhero film was made available for download at the start of this week, and customers in the United Kingdom have shown no hesitation about getting a copy to play whenever they like. The film is now the country’s quickest-selling digital download movie ever. It was still being downloaded at a frenetic pace at the time of writing, but as of Wednesday morning, it had passed 350,000 copies sold. That easily eclipses the record set by the previous holder – the popular Queen biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – which managed a little over a quarter of a million downloads during its first week of availability earlier this year.
Digital downloads are a relatively new way of consuming movies, but experts believe they will soon become a more popular choice than DVDs and Blu-Rays, as customers come to accept streaming films or playing them through digital devices as being ‘the new norm.’ Many major stores have now stopped selling standalone DVD players altogether, and the majority of Blu-Ray players are contained within video gaming consoles, such as the Sony PlayStation 4. The digital alternative has grown in popularity since even the release of the previous ‘Avengers’ movie ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ which racked up 253,000 downloads during its first week and remains in third place on the all-time chart.
With physical formats being on their way out, it’s not yet clear when (or even whether) ‘Avengers: Endgame will receive a physical release. Many collectors will be anxious to add a copy of the history-making film to their vaults, and given the fact that the download is now available, an announcement about DVDs and Blu-Rays should be expected in the very near future if it’s going to happen at all.
One place you definitely won’t be able to find the film is on any conventional streaming service. As much as Amazon Prime, Netflix, or any of the alternative digital providers would love to make the film available, they won’t be granted permission to do so. Disney – the ultimate owner of all Marvel’s properties – are in the final stages of preparing their own over-the-top streaming service for launch later on in the year, and therefore they won’t give away one of their star attractions to anybody else. When Disney Plus goes live, we should expect all major Disney and Marvel productions to become exclusive to that service – much to the likely chagrin of the other streaming services and all their users. It appears that UK customers may have longer to wait for that than their American counterparts, though – while Disney Plus may have been confirmed for launch in America as of winter 2019, there is no firm date for any European launches.
The success of the digital downloads means that Disney and Marvel are still seeing a significant financial return on their ‘Avengers’ franchise even after the final movie has left the cinemas – and they still have another ‘Avengers’ entertainment product up their sleeve. The video game ‘Avengers: A-Day’ will be launched in May 2020 for all current-generation video gaming consoles, and is expected to be one of the major video game releases of the year. As well as being available to Xbox and PlayStation 4 users, the game will be one of the first to be made available to players of the forthcoming Google Stadia system, for which it’s likely to be used as an attraction. Successful video games make as much money (and in some cases, more money) than successful movies, and so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see several more billion dollars added to the value of the ‘Avengers’ franchise by the time everyone who wants a copy of that game has acquired one.
All of this put together means that even if Marvel and Disney have no plans to release any more ‘Avengers’ movies as crossover cinema events, they still have what’s effectively a license to print money for as long as they want to use the intellectual property. The revenue from the new video game will likely make up for the revenue lost when Marvel decided to withdraw the Marvel-themed mobile slots that used to be available in casinos. Many Marvel characters including the Incredible Hulk had their own mobile slots until recently, but there has been a re-think on branding since Disney took over the franchise. Although the mobile slots proved very popular with players, Disney didn’t feel that mobile slots were consistent with their image as a child-friendly company. The slots were withdrawn from related casinos, and their income disappeared with them. The new video game will likely replace that income – and probably exceed it, too.
If the current level of interest in all things’ Avengers’ is sustained – and given that the game will likely be a huge deal in 2020, we can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be – then we have our suspicions that we may not have seen the last of the world’s most successful superheroes after all. Money is always a large motivating factory for both movie companies and actors, and if the offer was right, we suspect that most of the people involved could be persuaded to come back around the table and work out another adventure for the gang to go on together. Despite everything that’s been said about the finality of ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ could we see yet another movie in the early years of the 2020s? We can’t say for sure, but we certainly wouldn’t bet against it.