Disney may be dropping 4K Blu-ray catalogue releases - could we be coming to the end of film on physical media?
Reports are circulating the internet having gathered steam over the last few days that Disney are set to stop releasing catalogue titles - both their own releases and those of the multitude of studios they own - on 4K Blu-ray. While the format has never been huge it has become one that many collectors are treasuring as it is likely to be the last form of physical media we see.
Not only does 4K Blu-ray offer the ability to watch films in the absolute best quality possible on current hardware, 4K releases are often part of larger collector's editions that include other important features. The news that Disney may be cancelling all upcoming plans for their catalogue releases is a horrible sign that they are beginning to turn their back on physical media as a whole.
While right now we expect them to continue releasing their upcoming NEW films on the format this is unlikely to be a long term thing. The current pandemic has already dealt a hard blow to physical media with the dearth in theatrical films meaning there is now a corresponding hole in the release schedule for new titles. While many studios are filling this hole with new editions of their catalogue releases it would appear that the upcoming Home Alone and Hocus Pocus 4K Blu-ray discs will be the last that Disney release from their back catalogue. While we might see exceptions for a few major titles in the future it is likely that they will be few and far between.
While 4K Blu-ray is a niche, Blu-ray and DVD have much higher levels of market saturation - however, these are continually being eroded by film streaming and it's far more convenient for many to stream a film on Netflix or Disney+ than it is to find a disc and go through the rigmarole of skipping through menus in order to watch a film. The reduced image quality rarely affects the enjoyment of the masses.
While we're a few years out from the end of DVD and Blu-ray sales, we can't see a future where 8K movies are delivered on discs or any other physical format. The future is totally online and that suits the studios just fine - it's cheaper and easier for them to stick their product on server farms and the cloud than it is to arrange production runs of plastic discs for an increasingly shrinking audience.
We really hope that 4K Blu-ray is given the chance it needs to flourish, but with disc prices still hovering at around £20 for most releases the market is always going to be limited to those who can afford it - if a DVD or Blu-ray is available for less than half the price OR the film is on Netflix or elsewhere online then there's little incentive for the mass market to spend their money on the premium format.