It’s finally happened: after weeks of rumors, today Disney has purchased the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s film and TV empire. This is big. For the Mouse House, along with a bigger hold on the movie industry, a major focus will be adding value to the streaming service they plan to launch in 2019; it gives them access to the Fox Vault, and you can bet some of their acquisitions will be a major draw to the new service. But what exactly have their bought?
As the ink dries, we’re going to take a look through all of the most important franchises, and call out key movies that will no doubt be essential to Disney’s future. It’s worth noting that we’re choosing to ignore films where Disney only own distribution rights as these are frequently divided into US or international markets.
Ongoing Franchises (This Page)
Disney has always had a reputation for being child-friendly. As a result, fans of the troubled Alien franchise are concerned about what the deal would mean for the Xenomorphs. Dig a little deeper though, and it may not mean the end of the sci-fi horror Alien and Predator franchises. Disney has always allowed subsidiaries like Miramax and Touchstone to make more mature offerings; in fact, Kill Bill was a Miramax film. It’s possible a number of Fox properties to align with this kind of approach.
The real question is whether or not Disney will add this content to their streaming service. The Fox Vault definitely contains a lot of contents that aren’t geared towards children. If Disney do wish to capitalize on these films, they’ll need to set up some kind of parental controls. It would allow them to market the streaming service to a range of different audiences though, making it potentially more profitable. We’ll have to wait and see what approach Disney choose to take.
Disney view James Cameron’s Avatar franchise as the “crown jewels” of the Fox purchase. The first Avatar film grossed almost $3 billion in the global box office, and Cameron is working on a series of sequels.
Disney has long shown a lot of confidence in the Avatar films. In September 2011, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Avatar would be coming to the “Animal Kingdom” theme park at Disney World. He hinted that the company intended to build more of them at international parks, capitalizing on the fact three-quarters of Avatar‘s box office takings were earned overseas, with the openings intended to coincide with the release of the sequels.
The timings have slipped since that initial announcement, and Cameron is still at work on the next films. Meanwhile, the first “World of Pandora” theme park recently opened. It became something of a gamble, opening some seven years after the last Avatar film’s release, but seems to have been something of a success.
Outside of parks, Disney has a lot riding on this franchise; with those four sequels on the way, they’re clearly hoping for a sci-fi blockbuster series to stand alongside Star Wars.
The Die Hard Franchise
The popular all-action Die Hard franchise has been struggling in recent years, although casting recently began for the sixth film that aims to return the series to prior heights. It will be interesting to see whether or not Disney continue with the current plans, or choose to relaunch the franchise in some form.
Marvel fans have been particularly excited about the prospect of seeing the Fantastic Four enter the MCU. Fox has struggled to make the franchise work, with Josh Trank’s 2015 film earned heavy criticism from fans and critics alike. Whether the deal would include them, however, was up in the air. It was widely accepted that they may not; the distribution rights aren’t actually owned by Fox at all. Instead, they’re owned by Constantin Films, who typically partner with Fox for production. However, from the press release, it looks like this was cleared and the properties now live at Fox.
If any franchise indicates the complexity of the Fox purchase, it’s Kingsman. The films are hardly your standard Disney fare, yet remain tremendously popular; this year’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle grossed nearly $400 million at the global box office, with a third expected to be on the way. There’s precedent for Disney to allow adult films to be made by subsidiaries like Miramax, branded separately so as not to damage Disney’s own family-friendly brand. We’d expect that to happen with Kingsman.
The Martian and Artemis
Based on a novel by author Andy Weir, 2015’s The Martian was a critical and box office success. And, almost unique among sci-fi films, it had a solid basis in scientific fact, and essentially acted as Weir’s love-letter to science. Needless to say, when Weir began work on a second novel, Fox scooped up the film rights. Artemis is a complex crime story set on a Lunar colony, and the movie is sure to be every bit as exciting as the recently-released novel. Presumably, the right pass over to Disney in the deal.
Planet of the Apes
The Planet of the Apes franchise has proved a strong one for Fox since Franklin J. Schaffner’s first film, released back in 1968. The latest trilogy has essentially served as prequels to the original movie, with Caesar’s story coming to a tragic end in War for the Planet of the Apes. War‘s disappointing domestic box office performance was compensated by a stronger overseas showing, and the film grossed $490 million worldwide. Quite what the future of POTA is right now hasn’t been made clear, but there’s evidently still something worth mining.
Next year’s Red Sparrow will see the potential birth of a new franchise, based on the novels by Jason Matthews. As a former CIA operative, Matthews’ writing is rooted in the real world practices of spy agencies. Matthews sold the movie rights to Red Sparrow before the book was even published and is already contracted for the sequel too.
Disney may already own Lucasfilm, but distribution rights for the classic movies have previously been with Fox. Those rights would have mostly reverted in 2019 in any case, with the exception of A New Hope: the first Star Wars film was financed by Fox, and as a result of Lucas’ dealings distribution would have sat with them in perpetuity. Now, though, we can expect Disney to return distribution rights to this franchise back to Lucasfilm.
Some fans are speculating that Lucasfilm will finally choose to release the original, unedited versions of the Original Trilogy. That still seems doubtful though. Lucasfilm has consistently insisted that releasing these would feel disrespectful to George Lucas. Worse still, the release would divide fans. It may be safer for Lucasfilm to shy well clear of this course of action.
The X-Men franchise is possibly the most complex issue for Disney as part of this purchase. Fans eagerly expect mutants to appear in the MCU, but there are a lot of complications with that idea that need ironing out first. Absorbing the X-Men into the MCU likely means that we’ll go back to getting a single X-Men film every two or three years, rather than a constant flow of superhero films featuring Marvel’s merry mutants. Meanwhile, Fox’s recent successes have demonstrated that the franchise can work best in films that are very different to your typical Marvel Studios offering. There’s no way Marvel Studios would have made the raunchy comedy that is Deadpool, the bloody and brutal Western that is Logan, or the promising horror of the upcoming New Mutants trilogy.
Whatever happens, the X-Men in their current form still have a future, with New Mutants, Deadpool 2, X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Gambit on the way.
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