Well, the big news this week is so big that we’re going to address it right off the top: In a sudden and unexpected move, Disney’s board of directors has ousted CEO Bob Chapek and re-hired Bob Iger. The news came out of the blue on Sunday night and seems to have taken everyone by surprise. Bob Iger of course was the company’s previous CEO, who took over for Michael Eisner—the man who’d served in that role for over two decades at that point—back in 2005. It was under Iger’s watch that Disney acquired Pixar, Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm, and the film division of 20th Century Fox. He also laid the groundwork for the launch of Disney+ in 2019.
Chapek was no stranger to Disney, having joined the company in 1993 as the director of marketing for Buena Vista Home Entertainment. In this capacity he helped steer Disney through the “Golden Age” of DVD and eventually the launch of Blu-ray, which is how I came to know him. He was so successful in that capacity that he was promoted to president of Home Entertainment in 2006, and eventually took over at Disney Consumer Products (in 2011) and Parks and Resorts (in 2015), which seemed to make him a natural fit to become CEO of Disney himself when Iger eventually stepped down.
But apparently, Iger and Chapek did not often see eye to eye. Iger, who could (and probably should) have worked more aggressively to groom a clear successor to lead the company in his own image, failed to do so, resulting in Chapek’s elevation to CEO in 2020. But Chapek’s reign was troubled from the very start, stricken first by the COVID-19 pandemic and next by a series of public “self-owns” and media missteps. [Read on here…]
From my perspective as editor of The Digital Bits, I was personally enthusiastic about Bob becoming CEO. I thought for sure that he would give home entertainment—the division that’s saved many a major Hollywood studio’s bottom line during the pandemic—it’s due. Instead, the company’s physical media releases have languished. Entire swaths of the Disney live-action, 21st Century Fox, Hollywood Pictures, and Touchstone Pictures libraries have been left to languish, with hugely popular and fan-favorite films un-remastered and unexploited on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, and even 4K streaming via Disney+.
Now… obviously, none of us are privy to the goings on within the Disney board of directors, though Variety, Deadline, and The Hollywood Reporter are all certainly working overtime to tease out the details via “sources with knowledge of the situation” inside the studio.
For my part, I sincerely hope that—of the many ways Iger might work to turn things around at Disney—he seriously considers reinvigorating Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. There was a period there, back in the 2018-2020 timeframe, when Home Entertainment was delivering two or three major catalog titles on the 4K Ultra HD format a month—major titles from the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm libraries. But then the studio’s 4K offerings fell off a cliff, even as every other studio in Hollywood (think Warner, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Lionsgate) began to ramp their physical 4K efforts up—a move that helped each of them to financially weather the pandemic shutdown of the theatrical business.
Before some of you say that this was all due to Disney+, explain to me then why so many live action catalog titles from the Fox, Hollywood Pictures, and Touchstone libraries are available fully remastered in 4K on Disney+/Starz internationally, but are completely absent on Disney+ and Hulu here in the States? Think Patton, There’s Something About Mary, The Day After Tomorrow, The Devil Wears Prada, Toys, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Kingdom of Heaven, the Alien films, the Die Hard films, High Fidelity, the Home Alone films, the Ice Age films, Remember the Titans, Rushmore, The Sixth Sense, Splash.
And where are all those films that should be remastered and made available in 4K, at least on Disney+, and would certainly sell well on physical 4K Ultra HD? The Rock, Tombstone, Armageddon, Master and Commander, Pearl Harbor, Open Range, The Abyss, True Lies, Crimson Tide, Pretty Woman, Dead Poets Society, Con Air, Signs, Enemy of the State, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Face/Off, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, The French Connection, All That Jazz, Castaway, Moulin Rouge!, etc. What about Tron, Tron: Legacy, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and all the great Disney live action films? It continues to shock me, the degree to which Disney has allowed its live action catalog to grow stale on disc and streaming.
So while everyone is talking about Iger’s return to Disney, maybe someone who has his ear could whisper this into it: Please reinvigorate your home entertainment division! Please initiate a serious program to finally remaster your best live-action catalog films in 4K and make them available on Disney+ (including here in the States) and on physical 4K and Blu-ray. Cinephiles the world over will thank you for it.
All right, we’ve got a few other pieces of release news to cover today here at The Bits…
First, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has just set DC’s Black Adam for Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD release on 1/3/23, with the Digital release dropping today. A Best Buy-exclusive Steelbook 4K will also be available. Interestingly, the film has been mastered for 4K to comply with Filmmaker Mode (which, as we’ve reported previously here at The Bits, is available on televisions from select manufacturers and “disables all post processing (e.g. motion smoothing), preserves the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates, and enables your TV to display the film precisely as it was intended by the filmmaker”). Extras will include 10 behind-the-scenes featurettes (The History of Black Adam, Who is The Justice Society?, From Soul to Screen, Black Adam: A Flawed Hero, Black Adam: New Tech in an Old World, Black Adam: Taking Flight, Kahndaq: Designing a Nation, The Rock of Eternity, Costumes Make the Hero, and Black Adam: A New Type of Action). Also look for HDR10 high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos on the 4K release.
Also, Severn Films has announced some new titles that will be available for purchase on their website on Black Friday (11/25 at Midnight EDT), including Acción mutante (1992) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972) in 4K Ultra HD, as well as Blood on Méliès’ Moon (2016), The Devil’s Game (1981), The Five Days (1973), I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses (1978), and Sex Is Crazy (1981) on Blu-ray.
And Paramount is re-issuing Event Horizon in 4K Ultra HD, sans the deluxe Steelbook packaging that was available earlier this year. Look for the new wide-release Amaray version to street on 1/31/23.
Finally, before we go today, be sure to check out our latest disc reviews here at The Bits, which include…
Stephen’s look at Baltasar Kormákur’s Beast (2022) from Universal and Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji’s animated The Deer King (2022) from GKids via Shout! Factory, as well as Dennis’ thoughts on William Wyler’s Detective Story (1951) and Vincent J. Donahue’s Loneyhearts (1958) from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
We’ll leave you with a look at the cover artwork for Black Adam and Event Horizon (with Amazon pre-order links)…