The results of the two major Hollywood Studios mergers became apparent on Tuesday as Disney’s film empire reported a $170 million loss in the third quarter related to titles inherited from the 20th Century Fox which is led by the pricey superhero picture, Dark Phoenix.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger said during an earnings call that “The Fox studio performance … was well below where it had been and well below where we’d hoped it would be when we made the acquisition”, Bob Iger acknowledged that the Fox leadership was in a difficult situation during the time of the announcement of the merger in December 2017 and closure in late March 2019.
Still, for the Hollywood veteran Emma Watts, the public lashing could not have been easy to hear, Emma Watts is a small cadre of the Fox Film executives who made the leap to Disney, and vice-chairman of the 20th Century Fox label.
In recent weeks, rumors have abounded that Watts was seeking employment elsewhere. After all, the sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that she is signing a new contract with the Disney and she will keep overseeing the Planet of the Apes and Kingsman franchises, marquee Avatar, along with the awards hopeful Ford v. Ferrari, set to hit theatres this fall, and Free Guy, a July 2020 comedy which starring by Ryan Reynolds, among other projects.
Watts is also overseeing the coming installment in the Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and Murder on the Orient Express, which are set to release on Christmas 2020. (Fox’s superhero properties, which include Deadpool and the X-Men, now go to Kevin Feige’s Marvel.)
Discussing a $170 million deficit with investors, Iger said that Alan Horn the Disney Studios co-chairmen and Alan Bergman are working with Watts to “consolidate and to cut back on the number of releases so as to focus on the kind of release that we hope would come out of that studio.”
Iger’s statement confirmed that what Hollywood insiders have known for the months: Now Fox is a pared-down label which lives alongside with the Marvel Studios, Disney’s live-action studio, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Disney Animation. According to the sources the 20th Century Fox silo can make 10 or more than 10 movies per year, which is directly headed for the Disney’s new streaming service or Hulu, now controlled by the Disney.
Iger continuously said that “it will probably take a solid year or two years before we can have an impact – obviously it takes longer on the development side – but an impact on the films that are actually in production. We are all confident that we are going to be able to turn around the fortunes of Fox live-action and you are going to see those results in a couple of years.”
During the earnings call, Iger said, “I don’t mean to cast dispersions at any individual at all – it was a very difficult transition for that business.”
Whatever the reason, currently Fox is a dismal number 7 for the years in the domestic markets (even behind Lionsgate). Dark Phoenix, which cost $200 million before marketing, grossed $252.4 million at the worldwide box office, while the comedy Stuber also dropped out. A former Fox executive says, “If these results had happened under the old ownership – the Murdoch’s – heads would have rolled.”
The last big hit of the Fox was Bohemian Rhapsody, which grossed north of $900 million pre-merger following its release in the fall of the year 2018. In reference of the mining the 20th Century Fox library proper for the streaming purposes, on Tuesday Iger said that Watts and her team would be rebooting Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Night at the Museum, Home Alone and Cheaper by the Dozen for the Disney Plus.
Iger was not as specific while it came to the Fox Searchlight, the specialty label and the home of the several Oscars which is overseen by the Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula. Iger said, “Fox Searchlight will continue to make the prestige films it is known for while expanding its high-quality original storytelling into the [direct to consumer] space.”
Searching is not in the big-budget productions business, and only releases a handful of films annually. According to many analysts, a Searching movie which does not work is just a rounding error for the Disney.