Compared to traditional Blu-ray Discs (1080p) there are very few movies and series that get released to 4k (2160p) Blu-ray. The titles that do get UHD BD editions are usually blockbuster, award-winning, and/or high-budget films like Black Panther and Tomb Raider.
However, there are many titles that are available to purchase or rent in Digital 4k but not Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc. A sample of those movies found on iTunes include 7 Days in Entebbe (4k/HDR10), Blockers (4k/HDR10), Chappaquiddick (4k/Dolby Vision), Escape Plan 2: Hades (4k/DolbyVision), and Game Night (4k/Dolby Vision).
Those are only a few titles found on iTunes but there are plenty more movies that will likely go the same route. As well as Apple, you might find Digital 4k versions of films (that don’t exist on Ultra HD Blu-ray) on other services such as Google Play, Amazon Video, and Vudu.
Does this indicate a new trend for home entertainment in which the cost of physical media is too high to justify a 4k Blu-ray disc release? Maybe, but there are times when a 4k disc edition will come later such as in the case of Oscar-winner Darkest Hour which got a second disc release on 4k Blu-ray over 4 months after Blu-ray and DVD. And, fan-favorite editions such as exclusive Steelbooks don’t show any signs of slowing down.
Or, does it have to do more with whether or not a movie was mastered in 4k for theatrical release? That may be part of it, but there are numerous titles that have been upscaled to 4k for UHD BD even though the master was produced in 2k.
Then again, there are older titles such as Predator (1987) which is already available in 4k on Apple iTunes but has been announced for release on 4k Blu-ray this Fall. And, the 4k is real! Predator was mastered in 4k making this a true 4k transfer to Ultra HD Blu-ray.
One might note though the iTunes 4k version does not indicate it has HDR specifications for improved color depth on supporting TVs and media players. It will be interesting to see if Apple updates their 4k version with HDR10 once the 4k Blu-ray is released.
What’s also notable is the cost of Digital 4k movies has gone down significantly. While new 4k Blu-ray Disc releases still tend to range between $24.99 and $29.99 (even higher for Best Buy exclusives), new Digital 4k movies generally cost between $14.99 and $19.99 (with many exceptions, of course). iTunes currently has the best prices on Digital 4k movies (here’s a bunch of discounted 4k/HDR titles on Apple starting at $4.99) but other services including Fandango and Google Play still list some Digital 4k movies at $29.99.