Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, Disney, and a quiet physical media shift

DVD Blu-ray
Share this Article:

Disney has cautiously started a move back to giving physical film media releases more priority, it seems – and Ant-Man is the first beneficiary.


Try three issues of Film Stories magazine – for just £1: right here!

It’s only a small move in the broader scheme of things, but it’s worth noting how Disney went about announcing the home releases of its Marvel movie Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania. The film, which is just on the cusp of grossing half a billion dollars at the global box office (poor by Marvel standards, bloody good by everyone else’s) is one of the studio’s biggest blockbusters of the last 12 months, and following its cinema release in February, it’s now heading to homes.

Nothing radical there. As such, in the Film Stories Inbox Of Doom (the FSIoD), we received a press release announcing the DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release. That press release popped up at the start of April, and it told us that in the UK, the film was heading to digital retailers on April 18th, and onto disc from May 22nd.

Then, last week, we had the confirmation that the film would also be on the Disney+ streaming service this month, an announcement most of us saw coming, of course. We’ve learned the pattern.

The previous Marvel release was Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and the home formats announcement followed what had become Disney’s regular approach for the MCU films of the last few years. Come the start of January, into the FSIoD came a press release from Disney+ telling us the film was going to streaming on February 1st. A month later we got an announcement of the home formats release, that was due on February 15th.

A fair amount of admin there, but a small change in the way that Disney is doing things. Go back over the last few Marvel films in particular, and when it comes to home releases, Disney+ has been the firm priority. That the films were going from cinemas and then to Disney’s streaming service. Only when the movies had landed there – or were about to – did we get any kind of announcement that a physical media release was coming.

Ant-Man And The Wasp Quantumania title card

This was, of course, a strategic move from Disney. When it decided to get into the streaming business, one of the changes it made was to significantly downsize its physical media output. The priority now was to get films direct to end users, digitally. Physical media has been in decline for a long time now, at least in terms of numbers on the balance sheet, and even though it served Disney well for many, many decades, it felt it was time to move on.

Truth is, it still does. Last year, in a well reported move, Disney decided to replace its boss, Bob Chapek, with its previous boss, Bob Iger.

Iger had steered the company previously for over a decade, into major acquisitions and huge strategic turns. Under Iger’s watch, Disney became by distance the biggest movie company, and one of the biggest entertainment companies on planet Earth. Chapek, well, didn’t have quite the same run.

Disney hasn’t been having the best of times over the last year or two. In fairness, neither have many companies as they reassert themselves following the inevitable impact of a global pandemic. Yet Disney is one of the bigger beasts, and it’s notable that it’s not fully got its footing back. In particular, the much-cherished Disney+ business, that has impacted by the sounds of it large parts of the Disney organisation, is still far away from turning a profit. As Netflix and Amazon can testify after all, the streaming business comes with huge rewards, but also it requires constant feeding. Without a continual calendar of splashy launches, subscribers – whose spending power is already being tested – are inclined to start looking elsewhere.

It came to a head near the start of the year, when Disney’s direct to consumer digital division reported a quarterly loss of $1bn. With subscriber growth slowing as well, and thousands of job cuts across the company announced, Bob Iger finds himself up against testing times. Part of his plan is to slowly increase the price of the Disney+ service. And part of it too is to get back, properly, into the physical media business.

As Iger told Disney investors, “home video, at one point as we called it, was extremely lucrative for our company”. It certainly was, worth billions of revenue at its peak. The entire sector, beyond Disney, still is worth hundreds of millions of disc sales a year. But as Disney has discovered, people aren’t going to be buying discs of a film – outside of collectors and enthusiasts – if the latest big blockbuster has already been on Disney+ for weeks.

The way Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania is being released therefore is something of an about turn. The initial home release was onto third party video on demand platforms, such as iTunes, a slice of revenue that Disney had all but forsaken in the last year or two for its Marvel films. Then there’s the disc releases. Only then will you be able to get the film on Disney+.

It’s not an entire about turn for the entire company. Notably, the wonderful Rye Lane is heading to streaming with not a physical media release in sight at the moment. But it’s a small step.

The Rock

The hope is that this also reignites Disney’s care for its catalogue titles. Whereas studios such as Paramount and Warner Bros have been remastering and rereleasing their higher profile older movies, at Disney, we’ve seen precious little evidence of that. A re-release of Heat in 4K last year was a project it inherited when it bought up Fox all those years ago, and its work on remastering Titanic and Avatar was a shrewd investment given that it’s in the James Cameron business for the foreseeable future.

But what about even some of the 1990s films that Disney has in its locker? Had any other studio had ownership of Con Air, Armageddon, Cool Runnings, The Rock, Crimson Tide et al, I can’t help but think they’ve had been looked after a little better. Outside of, say, the top 200 movies on the Disney asset register, there seems to have been little attention paid to catalogue releases.

Even that might be changing now though. Quietly, Disney had put together a 4K remaster of its animated favourite Cinderella, and that’s going to be widely available over the summer. This was work begun under the Bob Chapek regime, rather than Bob Iger Mark II, but it’s a step forward, and the noises are that Iger may accelerate more work of that ilk, as Disney looks to pick up pockets of revenue that it’s neglected across the last year or two.

Be under no illusions that these are business decisions that Disney is making. But there’s something just a little satisfying to see that catalogue titles and physical media releases have a little more value than had been assumed just a year or two back.

Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:

Follow Film Stories on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Buy our Film Stories and Film Junior print magazines here.

Become a Patron here.

Share this Article:

Related Stories

More like this