Reports have recently circulated online that Disney is planning on (mostly) doing away with future 4K Ultra HD physical media releases of its library titles. Unless it is a new release from a major franchise in the future, such as Star Wars, Marvel or Pixar, 4K is allegedly off the table. Now, Disney has responded to the rumors. While they debunk it to some degree, the statement can be read in a lot of ways. A Disney spokesperson had this to say about it.
"There are no plans to discontinue releases in a particular format. We evaluate each release on a case by case basis and pursue the best strategy to bring our content into consumer homes across platforms that meet a variety of demands."
There are several things important about this. For one, the statement was not attributed to anyone specific within the Disney ranks. Merely an unnamed "spokesperson." Second of all, that initial bit of the statement is hard to misunderstand. Disney is not entirely going to discontinue any format. This would include 4K Blu-ray discs. But things get a bit muddier, depending on how one chooses to interpret the rest of that statement.
Evaluating each movie on a case by case basis and determining the "best strategy" leaves a lot of wiggle room. Disney has been aggressively pursuing streaming as of late with Disney+. The original report, which originated from The Digital Bits, a largely reliable source, stated that the company wasn't interested in digging into its classic library of titles, or the library they inherited from Fox during last year's merger, for future 4K physical releases. Instead, they are focused on streaming. Additionally, the company, as it always has been, is focused on selling products and getting people to visit theme parks to boost revenue.
Physical media has become an increasingly niche market. Be that as it may, with a truly massive library full of desirable titles, Disney could be sitting on a huge pile of money. They could turn 4K releases of classics into a solid business. Especially now while people are largely stuck at home with theaters closed. There are tons of movies from both the classic Disney library and the 20th Century Fox library that have not made it to the premium HD format.
It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds in the coming years. Hocus Pocus and Home Alone are set to arrive on 4K soon. Those were expected to be the final library titles to get such a release before Disney shifts focus. The exception to the rule was expected to be director James Cameron's work, as the studio wants to keep him happy ahead of the Avatar sequels being released. Those who still enjoy physical media can only hope that Disney's evaluation process leads them to release more titles on 4K in the future, not less. Time will tell. This news comes to us via Forbes.