Just what will happen to 20th Century Fox's R-rated franchises after the Disney merger? There have been recent reports that, as feared, Fox will be "significantly downsized" as part of the merger. Although Disney still plans to release all completed Fox movies - meaning we should yet see X-Men: Dark Phoenix and New Mutants - they'll then reportedly be ruthless about deciding what happens next. The rest of Fox's properties may be shelved if they don't fit within Disney's scope of making "family-friendly, franchise-focused" movies.
This is a worst-case scenario for the film industry. Fox is primarily known as a studio that takes risks (explaining why Disney is choosing to keep the award-winning and critically-acclaimed Fox Searchlight brand). Should these reports be accurate, Disney's approach will drastically reduce the number and range of movies released each year.
But will Disney really take this approach? They'll have just spent $71.3 billion purchasing the bulk of Fox's film and TV empire. So does it make business sense for the studio to simply drop so many properties and projects?
- This Page: Disney's History With R Rated Movies
- Page 2: Disney's Stance on R-Rated Movies Isn't Likely to Change
- Page 3: What Will Happen to Fox's R-Rated Brands?
Disney Has a History of Releasing R-Rated Movies
While it's true that the Disney brand isn't associated with R-rated films, the studio does have a history of allowing subsidiaries to do so. The most notable example has been the Touchstone label, targeted specifically at mature audiences.
In the early 1980s, Disney's family-friendly brand became something of a weakness. The studio attempted to diversify towards the new PG rating, but a number of box office failures - including The Black Hole, Tron, and Condorman - led Disney to take a different approach. Then-CEO Ron W. Miller founded Touchstone, intended as a label for movies that weren't Disney's typical fare, including both PG and R-rated films. Into the 2000s, the success of the Disney-branded PG-13 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl led the House of Mouse to reconsider; many PG projects were absorbed back into the main Disney brand. Touchstone continued to release R-rated films like Gangs of New York and Apocalypto through the 2000s, though. The last R-rated movie released under the Touchstone imprint was The Fifth Estate, back in 2013.
In theory, then, there's no reason Disney couldn't continue the practice of releasing R-rated films under a different label. The studio could choose to relaunch the Touchstone brand, for example, or simply retain the existing 20th Century Fox brand, continuing to develop and release their R-rated Fox properties. But would Disney really take this approach?