More light is being shed on what 20th Century Fox will look like under the ownership of Disney. The acquisition was years in the making, and while it certainly brings with it exciting opportunities for viewers like Marvel’s X-Men or Fantastic Four joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also comes with thousands of layoffs, the shuttering of Fox’s smaller studios that made more niche films, and now an overall lessened output.
Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed on an earnings call today that after Disney has finished releasing all the Fox films that are already in the can, Fox will only make and release five or six new movies a year. That’s about half the studio’s usual output, as they released 12 films in 2018 alone.
Lest you think this is bringing Fox more in line with other studios, it’s not. Last year Sony Pictures released 13 films, Paramount released 11, and Warner Bros. released a whopping 22 new features films. Granted, Disney only released seven films in 2018, but they were almost all massive tentpoles.
It’s still unclear what kinds of movies, exactly, Disney wants Fox to make. Rumors have swirled that Disney wants to keep the Mouse House as the home of blockbusters and let Fox make smaller scale films, as well as adult-oriented films. That explains why Disney scrapped Fox’s Mouse Guard adaptation weeks before it began filming.
But on the whole, the scaling back of Fox’s output is disappointing and yet another reminder of what we lost with this acquisition. If Fox is only making five or six movies a year, those movies—given how Disney has approached its own business—will likely be safer bets like Bohemian Rhapsody or Murder on the Orient Express, not risky dramas like Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale, or Red Sparrow. These movies exist because Fox, a standalone entity, was willing to greenlight them. But will the same be true once Disney sends down an edict of how many and what kinds of movies Fox is allowed to make? Especially when one of those movies every other year will be an Avatar sequel? Probably not.
Look, I hope I’m wrong. I hope Fox continues to be able to make gambles on films like A Cure for Wellness, because diversity of content is good for the consumer and good for the filmmakers out there looking to expand the horizons of what can be done in the medium of film. But if Fox can only make five or six movies a year, and those in charge need to make decisions that justify their job—i.e. greenlight movies that are likely to make money—then choosing a $69 million on a drama about sexual assault, even if it does star Jennifer Lawrence, is probably not going to happen.
Hopefully we get more clarity soon. At least Fox Searchlight is still apparently being left alone. For now.