With one of the biggest takeovers in entertainment history taking place last month, all eyes have been glued to how Disney will absorb the vast properties of 21st Century Fox into its ranks. On Wednesday at CinemaCon, audiences got the first glimpse at the entertainment behemoth’s plans for taking over the box office.
Even before the Disney panel at the Las Vegas gathering of movie theater owners began, the entrance to the presentation was plastered with posters for Disney’s Lion King with Fox’s Dark Phoenix and Stuber, showing the studios’ united front. At the start of the presentation, a sizzle reel showed past and upcoming films from both studios, including some of the biggest movies ever to have been made, like Avatar, Avengers, and Star Wars, alongside Oscar-winners like 12 Years a Slave and The Shape of Water.
“I’m still getting my mind all around this and internalizing it,” Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, told the audience, saying that the two studios together will be “more than the sum of our parts.”
“We have an unbelievable collection of stories, characters, and worlds to explore, coming from bold, visionary filmmakers like Jon Favreau, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Lee, Joe Wright, James Cameron — and that’s just the Js,” Horn quipped. As an image of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool tweet about the merger popped up on the screen behind him, Horn promised: “You’ll be seeing more of Deadpool in the years ahead.”
While the debate between streaming versus theatrical releases continues to heat up Hollywood (Disney is launching its own Disney+ streaming service later this year), Horn reassured the assembled movie theater owners that the theatrical experience was the priority and that “it’s what Disney and Fox will continue to pursue as we move forward as one united company.”
Emma Watts, vice chairman of Fox Film, later said on stage, “We’ve stood on this stage as competitors for many years so it’s a bit of a shock this year to be here as colleagues,” adding that she was “excited to be a part of this incredible team.”
Watts continued, “While we may be living through a lot of change in our industry, the good news for all of us is that the formula for a good movie and the role of studio in that process remains the same; creativity, hard work and a singular dedication to filmmakers, empowering them to push boundaries and tell stories that stand the test of time. That will never change.”
Disney completed its acquisition of 21st Century Fox on March 20, absorbing Fox’s movie and TV divisions and sending ripples through Hollywood as it cemented its status as the most powerful entertainment studio. As part of the acquisition, Disney now owns film rights to the X-Men, Deadpool, Fantastic Four, and Avatar franchises, and fans have been wondering how these properties will play into the Mouse House’s own stacked slate of Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and the live-action adaptations of its fairy tales and animation.
In 2019 alone, Disney will release some 20 films between its live-action and animated slate that will include Lion King, Frozen 2, and Star Wars: Episode IX, as well as Fox’s slate of Dark Phoenix, The Woman in the Window, Stuber, and Searchlight films such as Tolkien, Jojo Rabbit, and Lucy in the Sky. The first Disney-Fox release will be the faith-based drama Breakthrough on April 17, made by the now-shuttered Fox 2000 division.
At Wednesday’s joint presentation, audiences were shown footage from Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Lion King, Toy Story 4, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Dark Phoenix, and the Christian Bale-Matt Damon race car drama Ford V. Ferrari.
With so many films stacked up in the upcoming months, there may be some release date clashes, said Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of theatrical distribution. She said that “adjustments will need to be made” to some of the upcoming slate in order to pace films throughout the years.