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Buying a 4k Movie on iTunes Doesn’t Necessarily Mean 4k On Other Services

emily blunt sicario
Image Credit: BF Distribution

I recently purchased Sicario on iTunes in 4k because what the heck, even though I already owned it in Digital HD on Vudu I really wanted to see it in 4k with HDR. And, it was on sale for only $6.99!

But when I went back to Vudu to see if it was upgraded to UHD (the acronym Vudu and Google Play use for 4k resolution), it wasn’t. Although, I thought it might have been because Apple and Vudu are now part of that whole Movies Anywhere thing.

Oh, but wait. Lionsgate isn’t partners with Movies Anywhere. No wonder why there was no upgrade to the movie. Hmm, what about UltraViolet? Aren’t iTunes and Vudu connected that way? They are (see clarification in comments below), but Lionsgate isn’t an UltraViolet partner either.

Not to pick on Lionsgate. Paramount and MGM aren’t Movies Anywhere partners either. And, Universal titles are no longer supported on UltraViolet. So, in a nutshell, I purchased Sicario twice just to get the movie in 4k.

Also Read: Microsoft Joins Movies Anywhere

The lack of consistency across digital movie services doesn’t just end with studios not supporting MA or UV though. Sometimes the service just doesn’t have the title in 4k. For example, neither Google Play or iTunes sell Avengers: Infinity War in UHD, while Vudu and FandangoNow do.

That’s true for many Disney and Disney/Marvel titles. A Wrinkle in Time and Black Panther are two other examples. Vudu and FandangoNow sell them in UHD but Apple and Google miss out.

There’s also inconsistency across franchise films. As an example, Vudu sells Sicario and the Sicario: Day of the Soldado in UHD, but the sequel doesn’t appear to be encoded with HDR10 like the original. Is that just a mislabeled SKU on the VUDU website? Or, was it really digitally mastered without HDR? It’s hard to tell because HDR really isn’t something you can be sure of unless you’re able to do a direct comparison.

Could there ever be one standardized digital packet of video/audio versions that is distributed across all platforms? Maybe someday. But for now we still have to think about output before deciding on where to buy a digital movie. Much of the inconsistency stems from MA and UV not having universal support. But as far as 4k, one might wonder if Disney is holding back how much 4k is released in anticipation of their own digital service.

Also Read: Apple Selling Action Films in Digital 4k for Under $10

Jeff Chabot
Jeff Chabothttps://hd-report.com
Jeff has a background in photography, video and television production. He writes about technology, broadcasting, home theater, and digital entertainment.


  1. There are other problems. If you already have a movie in HD on Movies Anywhere, buying the UHD version on iTunes will NOT upgrade your Movies Anywhere copy to 4K even if it is part of Movies Anywhere! I had the 2017 Flatliners in HD already from the movies anywhere BD, but then I bought the Flatliners 2-pack from iTunes and the newer movie is now in 4K on iTunes, but NOT on Vudu (or in Movies Anywhere’s purchase history; it shows the movie purchased with the newer date, but lists it as “HD” only). This is true of “most” but not “all” iTunes purchases that either are later bought in 4K or upgraded to 4K at a later date. It’s like Movies Anywhere does not get updated at all so nothing else connected to it does either, even if they offer 4K versions. I should not have to email them constantly to get these things resolved. If you buy something again in 4K, it should get registered in 4K on Movies Anywhere also!

  2. I think the deal with Disney is refusing to give in to Apple’s plan to sell 4K movies no higher than $19.99 – the same price as new releases for 1080p. Because Disney stubbornly keeps its digital prices higher than the rest of the studios and because Apple wants to leverage “free” 4K upgrades to iTunes users who have existing films in their library and buy a 4K AppleTV (which is a great incentive), Disney and Apple appear to be at a stalemate.

    • I think part of it is Disney hoarding their content. They won’t release most movies to 4k Blu-ray, they don’t pre-sell BDs on Amazon. I think they are waiting for their streaming service to launch maybe.

  3. You made a mistake in your article. iTunes is not Ultraviolet. Lionsgate is Ultraviolet, provided it’s not acting as distributor for an Independent studio. Sicario is UV on Vudu & FandangoNOW.

    • Carl thanks for the comment. What I mean to say is iTunes and Vudu are connected through Movies Anywhere, but yeah, iTunes and UV are not the same. Anyway, the point of the article is to express confusion about where to buy 4k.


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