Your favorite Disney 4K Blu-rays aren’t going away thanks to Sony, but lesser known titles may disappear

Panasonic Blu-ray player, with the Blu-ray logo prominent
(Image credit: Future)

Disney has reportedly signed a deal with Sony for it to take over all of its physical media production, such as 4K Blu-ray, going forward, sources close to the matter told The Digital Bits. The news follows reports that it has also decided to close Disney Movie Club, a subscription service and online store where members could access Blu-Rays and DVDs of their favorite Disney titles. 

As part of the new deal, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will be responsible for the production and distribution of all physical media, including new releases and classic titles, to shipping companies and retailers in the US and Canada (there is no word on other territories yet). 

Disney has been focusing more and more on its streaming strategy – Disney Plus – for years, placing less importance on physical media, which was evidenced by the news that Disney is killing 4K Blu-ray production in Australia after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was the final Blu-ray released in the country on August 1, 2023. 

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in All of Us Strangers

With this new deal, could we actually see physical releases of movies such as All of US Strangers? (pictured) (Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

According to Digital Bits, the decision comes after not only a declining interest in physical media (with sales across all digital media reported to have fallen 25.3% in 2023, according to Media Play News) but also ineffective and time-consuming decision making in regards to physical media at Disney itself. Sony has been known for its efficient production of physical media of its titles, with a 4K Blu-ray pre-order of Madame Web already appearing on Amazon.

Despite this deal signalling that we could see more Disney 4K Blu-rays (and titles from any other companies it owns such as 20th Century Fox and Touchstone), part of the agreement means that the Disney Movie Club will close on May 20, 2024. This means that members will no longer get exclusive access to physical copies of lesser known or older titles such as the Herbie series, Escape to Witch Mountain, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and more (you can see a full list at the Disney Fandom Wiki). As a result, it suggests that we may see a lot of these titles disappear altogether and signals the closure of another subscription service.  

Analysis: two steps forward, one step back 

This is another instance of a double-edged sword when it comes to Disney. I recently commented that 4K Blu-ray isn’t dying despite Disney’s best efforts, thanks to the work of independent companies such as Arrow Films and Criterion Collection, who have been keeping the 4K Blu-ray flag flying by giving us restorations and bringing new life to classic titles, while Disney moved away from the physical media market. 

This deal with Sony could signify the release of more Blu-rays from Disney properties, not just limited to Disney itself, which home theater fans are being starved of, including award winning and nominated movies such as All of US Strangers and Poor Things. With Sony now in charge, movie fans may finally have access to these titles at home where Disney was keeping them locked away before. Finally, a positive step for physical media. 

But, it’s frustrating that there is a catch to this good news. The closure of the Disney Movie Club means subscribers will no longer get access to these sometimes exclusive and rare releases and, although unconfirmed, could mean some of these titles never receive a physical release. Admittedly, not everyone will be jumping to buy some of these titles, but popular 90’s movies such as Cool Runnings and The Mighty Ducks are Disney Movie Club exclusive Blu-rays – so does this mean they’re no more?

The real issue with the shift from physical media to digital streaming is that you never truly own your movies. If a streaming service decides to remove a movie from the online catalog, that’s it – it’s gone. Hopefully, this deal means that a lot of sought after Disney releases (including classics from Fox and so on) will see the light of day. It’s annoying that there had to be a caveat, though. 

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James Davidson
TV Hardware Staff Writer, Home Entertainment

 James is the TV Hardware Staff Writer at TechRadar. Before joining the team, he worked at a major UK based AV retailer selling TV and audio equipment, where he was either telling customers the difference between OLED and QLED or being wowed by watching a PS5 run on the LG 65G2. When not writing about the latest TV tech, James can be found gaming, reading, watching rugby or coming up with another idea for a novel.