Disney's box office success in recent years suggests the company doesn't really need to make original movies (not live-action ones, anyway). The Mouse House has expanded its media empire to include everything from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the Star Wars franchise, Pixar Animation Studios, and even The Muppets over the last ten years or so. With so many popular - and profitable - brands under their control now, original live-action features haven't exactly been a priority for Disney.
That's become increasingly true over the last few years, thanks to the box office success they've enjoyed by adapting their classic animated films into live-action/CGI movies like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast. For their next trick (and a move that will have rippling effects across the industry), Disney will purchase Fox, in a deal that's expected to be finalized by June. The move will give the company even more IPs to add to their collection, in addition to the sequels, remakes, and adaptations they already have lined up for the next two years alone. It also means the Mouse House has all the less reason to focus on original live-action projects right now.
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Obviously, from a creative perspective, it would be nice to see Disney invest more in live-action projects that aren't remakes or part of some multimedia franchise. However, from a business perspective, it's hard to argue with the company's strategy at the moment. This isn't anything new either; in fact, Disney's been moving away from original non-animated content for a while.
- This Page: Disney's Last Original Live-Action Movie Was in 2015
- Page 2: Will Disney's Strategy Impact Fox's Future?
Disney's Last Original Live-Action Movie Was In 2015
The closest thing Disney's released to an original live-action film in the last four years was Brad Bird's Tomorrowland - and even that movie, as its title implies, was partly inspired by the Disney theme park section. Save for their Disneynature documentaries and Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies (which Touchstone Pictures distributed domestically), every other Disney film made since 2015 has been a remake, sequel, prequel, spinoff, or an adaptation on the live-action side. The situation is different when it comes to the company's animated offerings, but there's a valid argument to be made that Disney and Pixar Animation are brands unto themselves. And even then, there's been a noticeable uptick in franchise movies of late, with releases like Finding Dory, Cars 3, Incredibles 2, and Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Of course, there's a good reason for that. The first Disney-backed Star Wars movie hit theaters in 2015, followed by a sequel and a pair of prequel/spinoffs over the subsequent three years. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios started releasing three MCU movies a year in 2017 and the Mouse House started churning out even more retellings of its animated properties, ranging from smash-hits like Beauty and the Beast to more modest successes (but successes nonetheless) like Christopher Robin. As a result, the studio's done better than ever over the last few years, commercially-speaking... which brings us to our next point.
Disney Makes More Money Now Than Ever Before
This might feel like a no-brainer to anyone who's paid attention to Disney's box office returns of late, but the actual numbers back the idea up. The studio set an all-time domestic box office record in 2018 ($3.092 billion) and took in $7.3 billion worldwide, which wasn't all that far off from the global box office record that Disney set in 2016 (where it took in $7.6 billion around the world). Before then, however, the Mouse House set an industry record by becoming the first studio to gross over $5 billion at the worldwide box office for three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The company's since extended that record to four years straight and is all but guaranteed to cross that benchmark once again in 2019, extending its winning streak to five years running.
That being said, Disney will have to mix things up a little when it comes to their future output. They learned the hard way that releasing a movie with "Star Wars" in the title doesn't guarantee it'll be a smash hit with last year's Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Lucasfilm has since begun to re-evaluate its approach to building out the galaxy far, far away. Similarly, as successful as Disney's live-action remakes of its animated movies have been and will no doubt continue to be, they can only continue to reboot their own animated features for so long before diminishing returns start to set in. Thing is, they don't necessarily have to turn to making original content after that, as we've already seen with certain in-studio projects they have scheduled for 2019-2020 (namely, Artemis Fowl and Jungle Cruise).