Disney takes the axe to Fox’s movie slate

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There was some fantastic news for Disney during their quarterly shareholders’ earnings call last week. The studio has crossed $8 billion in box office revenue for the current year and predicts being the first film studio to cross $10 billion in a calendar year. Those are some mind-boggling numbers, but if you were working on a movie for Fox – which we should all know by now was recently acquired by Disney for another mind-boggling number – things aren’t looking so good.

During its last quarter, Fox made a loss of $170 million, a direct reversal of its performance the same time last year. Disney CEO Bob Iger pointed the dreaded finger of blame squarely at Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix, which released early June and only managed around $252 million at the box office with a production budget of $200 million. As we know the general rule of thumb is to double that budget to account for marketing and other associated costs, so that’s a sizeable $148 million loss for Fox on that single movie alone.

And that was used to justify the axe which just decimated hundreds of movies that Fox was even thinking of developing thanks to the studio said to be performing below expectations. If I was a betting man I’d say this was always the plan as Disney assumed direct control of Fox’s productions, but it’s always good to have a solid excuse. Walt Disney Studios co-chairs Alan F. Horn and Alan Bergman, the people behind that aforementioned $8 billion number, have been assigned to apply the same “discipline and creative standards” to the division as well as take it “in a new direction, with an all new development slate that will focus on a select group of properties” as per Iger.

We can already assume what some of those “select properties” will be as many are near release or are so far into production there’s little point in cutting them. Movies like Ford vs. Ferrari, Terminator: Dark Fate, and Ad Astra are already scheduled for release, and if you think lucrative franchises like Avatar or Planet of the Apes are going to disappear well then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Really affected are those movies still a long way off from production, never mind release, and don’t belong to money-spinning franchises that have received that chop – essentially anything looking beyond a 2020 release. For now anyway, because I suspect that the two Alans will conduct a thorough review of Fox’s potential movie slate and some of them might still see the light of day eventually because Disney still needs original content for Hulu and Disney+.

There is, however, a handy list on Reddit and an even more comprehensive list on Imgur of all the titles in development, although I should clarify that “in development” doesn’t mean “definitely being made”, just that Fox had committed to taking a look at what the creators could come up with before greenlighting anything for production. There are a few notables though, such as Taika Waititi’s Flash Gordon reboot, Die Hard prequel McClane, Magic: The Gathering, a reboot of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a Pink Panther animated reboot, an adaption of Stephen King’s The Boogeyman, and video game adaptions The Sims and Mega Man.

While comic book fans were rejoicing at the idea of Fox’s superheroes falling under Marvel Studios’ creative banner when Disney bought out Fox, this is what I was really concerned about – the impact the buy-out would have on potential non-franchise movies that don’t fit Disney’s blockbuster mentality. We’ll never know if these movies would’ve been made, or if they would’ve been any good, but we do know we’re ending up with less original movies in a market already focused on franchises, and I don’t believe that’s a good thing in the long run. I also suspect we’re going to hear stories of job cuts as Fox is “streamlined” and “refocused”.

Last Updated: August 12, 2019

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