After weeks of speculation, the Disney-Fox deal is finally a reality, though we’re probably a couple years away (at best) from seeing anything tangible from it. A deal of this size and scope will take time to close, and it will be heavily scrutinized — just ask Time Warner and AT&T how things are going with the Justice Department. Looking at the big picture, audiences should be asking themselves: is this deal good or bad for their favorite franchises?
Fan communities are understandably losing their collective minds over potential of projects like Avengers vs. X-Men, an Avatar/Star Wars crossover, or a Pixar-created Simpsons movie. By contrast, some of Hollywood’s top creators, like Kingsman‘s writer Mark Millar, are concerned that jamming all these characters and franchises together under one roof could impair innovation and reduce risk-taking across the entire movie industry. Millar posted several comments to Twitter today, wherein he posed some key questions:
Meanwhile, the Writer’s Guild of America took a much stronger position, contending that the deal will be far more detrimental than even Millar suggests:
In the relentless drive to eliminate competition, big business has an insatiable appetite for consolidation. Disney and Fox have spent decades profiting from the oligopolistic control that the six major media conglomerates have exercised over the entertainment industry, often at the expense of the creators who power their television and film operations. Now, this proposed merger of direct competitors will make matters even worse by substantially increasing the market power of a combined Disney-Fox corporation. The antitrust concerns raised by this deal are obvious and significant. The Writers Guild of America West strongly opposes this merger and will work to ensure our nation’s antitrust laws are enforced.”
It’s important to realize that the Disney-Fox deal is no slam dunk. According to CBR, it’s expected to take 12-18 months to close, requiring both federal regulatory review and shareholder approval. Assuming that everything goes through (it will), only then may production commence on the types of genre-warping projects that has everyone running around with their hair on fire today. In other words, the soonest we might see Deadpool in Avenger’s Tower is (probably) early 2020.
Howver, the bigger issue might actually be the glut of content at Disney and how they choose to manage it. According to Box Office Mojo, 10 of the top 20 highest-grossing films of 2017 were released by either Disney or Fox — that’s not even counting The Last Jedi, which might end-up as the all-time box office champ (until next Avengers: Infinity War, which is also a Disney property). 2018 could be an even bigger year for Disney, given their already announced Marvel-Pixar-Lucasfilm-Disney films.
Currently, Marvel pumps out 3 movies per year, Fox releases 2 X-Men films, Pixar is good for 2 movies, LucasFilm has at least 1 release, and Disney itself produces 1-2 live action films too. So, imagine a world sometime in 2020 when Disney officially owns all of these additional Fox properties; between Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Disney, and Avatar it’s conceivable that a new Disney-owned project drops every 3-4 weeks — each one a major, billion-dollar blockbuster. How can any other studio compete when one or more of these behemoths is already in theaters or about to debut?
Consider that Disney is dominating theaters today with Thor: Ragnarok, CoCo, and The Last Jedi — they truly own the December 2017 box office. It’s quite possible that this is could be the case every month of the year going forward. If so, how can the other studios realistically compete? There were a bunch of big-budget flops in 2017 (King Arthur, Valerian, Blade Runner, Alien: Covenant, Geostorm) — none of them owned by Disney, incidentally. What’s likely to happen is that the other major studios will focus more dollars on fewer projects rather than take bigger risks in the face of the Disney machine. That’s ultimately not good for fans, even if they’re getting some amazing stuff from the Mouse House.
Bottom line, nobody really knows what will happen next or how it will affect the entertainment industry as a whole. However, there’s no avoiding that the Disney-Fox deal is a major, ground-shaking event that positions Disney as THE power-player in Hollywood into the forseeable future. The other major studios must respond, but it’s unclear what possible response can counteract the Disney-fueled domination that’s coming down the road. Audiences want great movies about their favorite characters and universes, but fewer studios generally implies fewer projects.