Disney Puts ‘Final Nail in the Coffin’ of Iceland’s DVD Market

The recent announcement that there will not be an Icelandic-dubbed DVD edition of Frozen 2 is the death knell of the once-booming DVD market in Iceland, RÚV reports. According to Þorvaldur Árnason, the managing director of Samfilm, the distribution arm of the Sambíó theatre chain, Disney will no longer be releasing DVDs in smaller markets as it turns its focus to VOD rental platforms, a decision which Þorvaldur says signals the ‘the final nail in the coffin of DVDs and their releases in Iceland.’

Major foreign animated films generally screen in local movie theatres with Icelandic dubbing, but if Icelandic-language DVDs are not subsequently released, this could mean that Icelandic-speaking fans may have a long wait before they can watch the Icelandic version of the movie again. Streaming rights have to be negotiated for each film—Frozen 2, for instance, is currently available via the services offered by local telecom companies Síminn and Vodafone. However, if titles are restricted to specific streaming platforms, this could create delays for viewers after a movie leaves the theatre. Case in point: Disney now has its own streaming service, Disney+, but this platform is not yet available in Iceland and it is uncertain when it will make its debut in the country.

DVD (and before that VHS) rental was, for a long time, a mainstay of Icelandic culture, but like everywhere, the rise of streaming services and downloadable content has steadily chipped away at the local market. In 2015, Laugarásvídeó, Iceland’s largest video and DVD store, closed, with owner Gunnar Jósefsson citing the significant decrease in the number of films released with Icelandic subtitles as a primary factor in the closure. “There used to be 30-50 films released per month but now it’s more like ten,” Gunnar told Iceland Review at the time. Then, just last year, Iceland’s largest electronics chain, Elko, announced that it would no longer be selling DVDs.

While the DVD market is on the decline in Iceland, Þorvaldur says he believes Frozen 2 still would have sold well in the country. People can obviously still buy the DVD abroad, but without Icelandic dubbing, this really isn’t a practical or preferable option for parents with young children. In addition, he says, there are still collectors in Iceland who want to own movies on DVD, even if many homes no longer have a DVD player at all.

Icelanders tend to be early adopters, says Þorvaldur, which may have brought about a premature end to the local DVD market. “We Icelanders are so incredibly quick to switch over to new technologies that the market just collapsed here,” he remarked. “There is still a DVD market in the UK and in Germany and other large countries, but we’re so quick to adapt to new things.”

Iceland’s Largest Electronic Store to Cease DVD Sales

ELKO, Iceland’s largest electronics retailer, will stop selling DVDs starting this fall, Fréttablaðið reports.

In a press release about the decision, marketing director Bragi Þór Antoníuson said the company had reached a crossroads, saying, “When ELKO opened its doors for its first customers in 1998, DVDs were among the first things you saw and ever since, they’ve been a big part of the store’s product offerings. But times change and today, it’s possible to access all that material through various streaming services.”

Since opening, ELKO has sold 1,985,000 DVDs and will sell close to 2 million by the time they discontinue DVD sales. The company is putting all its remaining DVDs on clearance, selling some for as little as ISK 95 ($0.76/€0.67). The company is creating a new eSports division in place of its DVD section, as competitive gaming is gaining popularity in Iceland; the Icelandic eSports Association was recently founded, for instance. The new eSports sections will include eSports merchandise as well as areas for gamers to gather and compete together.

ELKO’s decision to cease DVD sales comes in the wake of most of the country’s video rental shops closing their doors. Video rentals used to be ubiquitous around Iceland but have naturally become fewer and further between with the rise of online streaming service accessibility in Iceland. In 2015, for instance, the largest video store in the country, Laugarásvídeó shuttered after 30 years of operation.