Here’s some bad news for anyone who really values both physical media and videos that are of such a high quality that many televisions don’t even support it: According to the DVD fans at The Digital Bits (via The Playlist), Disney is reportedly dropping plans to rerelease live-action movies from both its own expansive vault and its newly acquired 20th Century Fox library on physical 4K Ultra HD discs (a.k.a. “the black cases that are more expensive”). Disney’s animated movies, as well as new releases from Star Wars, Marvel Studios, and Pixar, would still be released in the most expensive format available, naturally, but anyone hoping to have high-quality versions of older movies would have to get them digitally.
This doesn’t seem like hugely important news on paper, but Disney is a big company, and convincing retailers to continue carrying 4K Ultra HD discs while Blu-rays and DVDs lose shelf space seems like a tough sell without Disney putting any effort into the fight. As 4K TVs become more common and more people want to justify the cost of an upgrade, shitty old Blu-rays in regular HD will no longer cut it, but if 4K discs haven’t been widely adopted yet at retail (because of Disney’s refusal to keep releasing old movies in the format), the only option will be digital versions. Ergo, this is the death of all physical media.
Or, you know, maybe not. This is all based on what unnamed sources have said to The Digital Bits, and it seems like it’s largely based on what retailers are expecting to get from Disney—which, at this point, is reportedly just 4K versions of Home Alone and Hocus Pocus, and then that’s it as far as 4K discs goes from this company for the foreseeable future. We don’t know if Disney has only paused future releases for the pandemic, we don’t know if it’s a permanent cost-cutting measure, and we also don’t know if it’s all a misunderstanding and there will be truckloads of 4K discs from the Disney and Fox vaults showing up Targets all over the country in a couple of months. Then again, one of the new PlayStation 5 models doesn’t even have a disc drive, so maybe physical media is already dead and we just haven’t realized it yet.