Like i said, it depends on how much the studios were willing to spend on the movie. Some were cheap, others decided to ante up for a good transfer.
If you're lucky, they will scan the original film and re-color grade the film for HDR. But this is expensive as it's slow (each frame has to be retouched by hand - the scan itself can introduce dirt artifacts and the film may not be completely clean). Of course this gives the best results.
Otherwise they may not even go back to the original film but to a digital intermediate or other digital capture done years earlier for say, the blu-Ray release. This is much cheaper and faster (the scans and film correction was already done), but you suffer from the limits of the original transfer, which happened before stuff like HDR was widespread.
And yes, it happened when Blu-Ray first came out too - a lot of early Blu-rays simply sucked - they were often worse than the DVD! The one that came with the ps3 and the Fifth Element were completely unwatchable. They were so bad, a few years later Sony re-issued them with much improved quality. Here it appears to build up a Blu-Ray library, Sony did fast transfers that were lousy, then redid them years later to correct some of the more egregious transfers (and double dip).
So the catalog releases may be done cheaply and quickly because WB wants to build up a UHD library quickly, or they're being cheap because they know it's only an incremental amount of sales so they aren't willing to spend the money to do a proper transfer.
The thing is, to produce a catalog title, there are probably dozens of ways to make a transfer, all with their own time, quality and cost trade offs. You'd hope studios would always pick the best transfer possible, but no.