When Apple launched the Apple TV 4K streaming box and first announced support for 4K and HDR in the iTunes movie store back in 2017, it had managed to sign up most major studios. But there was one holdout in terms of offering its catalog in UltraHD: Disney.
For three years, users in Apple’s ecosystem had to settle for 1080p HD to watch, say, the Marvel movies or Pixar animated films. Today, it looks like that’s changing in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. A plethora of Disney-made films inclusive of numerous Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Walt Disney Studios animated films are available in Apple’s storefront in both 4K and Dolby Vision HDR. They also support Dolby Atmos audio.
Examples include Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and Thor Ragnarok.
Not all films are included yet, though Disney and Apple may still be in the process of rolling them out. Also, users are reporting that this does not seem to retroactively apply to prior purchases. When Apple first introduced 4K HDR content on its store, it gathered praise for ensuring that all upgrades of existing content from HD to 4K applied fully to users’ libraries. It’s unclear whether that’s because Disney has made itself exempt from that policy, or if it’s just a temporary situation until the rollout is complete.
Update: We’ve confirmed that users who previously purchased any updated Disney movies on iTunes will get HD to 4K HDR automatic upgrades.
For a long time, the only way to get 4K HDR Disney films was through the niche Vudu service, but that changed with the launch of Disney+. The films that are appearing in 4K HDR on Apple’s storefront were already streaming as such on Disney+, which launched last November, less than two weeks after Apple’s own Apple TV+ (which is loaded with 4K HDR content).
That said, iTunes/Apple TV+ has been shown to offer a higher bitrate than Disney+, so videophiles may opt to buy or rent these movies from Apple rather than watch them on Disney+ for that extra quality edge—that is, if they aren’t such purists that they insist on UltraHD Blu-rays where possible.
This year is seeing a lot of movement on 4K support for Apple devices. The Apple TV 4K just finally added support for 4K YouTube videos, with the caveat that 4K videos don’t play in HDR or at any frame rate higher than 60fps. And Apple made changes in macOS Big Sur to enable 4K and HDR content in Safari on Netflix and other websites.