Today, I’ve decided this Cairns on Cinema column is not going to be about Harvey Weinstein.
His whole scandal may be the biggest story in Hollywood right now, but quite honestly I find the subject matter to be distasteful. I want this column to remain a family show, at least for this week.
So instead, I will talk about Disney.
Heck, it should be easy, then, to keep this column a “family show!” If there is one thing associated with the Walt Disney Company, it is their connection to family entertainment.
Mickey Mouse! Donald Duck! Snow White! Pinocchio! Bambi! Cinderella! The list goes on and on.
Lately, though, all the news stories have been about how dominant the Walt Disney Company has been at the box office lately, and the reasons have little to do with Mickey Mouse.
If you want to put a finger on why Disney has been dominant, I would suggest it comes down to one franchise, one movie. Star Wars.
What, you still don’t know that Star Wars is part of the Disney empire? You really do need to exit the bat cave a bit more, because this happened a few years ago.
Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012, and with it acquired the distribution rights to all future Star Wars movies, starting with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. Despite this acquisition, the Star Wars library was still divvied up to a certain degree. Distribution rights to the other Star Wars movies were still tied up with 20th Century Fox until 2020. As for the rights to the original Star Wars, Fox held those permanently.
So this was an inconvenience, but only a minor one. The bottom line is this acquisition has worked out like gangbusters for Disney.
Check out these numbers:
The latest Star Wars effort just opened to a $220 million domestic weekend, which is the second-biggest opening weekend of all time.
Of course, the number-one weekend of all time was set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, at $247.9 million. That movie made a domestic-record $936 million at the box office two years ago, and worldwide it made $2.06 billion.
Needless to say, this franchise has made Disney perhaps the most dominant player in Hollywood. Unfortunately, I’m afraid Disney has gotten a little carried away by its own success. It has become a bit power-mad.
Back in November, Disney got into a big fight with the Los Angeles Times, kicking out their movie critics from the pre-screenings of Star Wars: The Last Jedi because they didn’t like what the Times were reporting about the company’s business practices.
Also widely reported in early November: Disney decided to get greedy by imposing ridiculous demands on cinema chains when it came to showing Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
According to the reports, Disney demanded theatres book The Last Jedi to run for four weeks straight, no exceptions. Disney also demanded 65 per cent of the revenues.
Can you imagine tying up the only screen in your theatre for four weeks straight with one movie? Smaller cinema chains throughout North America, especially the ones with single-screen theatres in small communities, balked over these demands. I don’t blame them; the movie-going public would balk at this, too.
I am sad to report that I have it on absolutely rock solid authority that Magic Lantern Theatres is one of the chains caught up in this. Instead of showing Star Wars: The Last Jedi right away in North Battleford, the Capitol has been showing Ferdinand. On Dec. 29, it will be Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
Unfortunately, this situation is beyond their control. No one should blame the Capitol for this; this is all Disney.
You know, I don’t want to be seen here as anti-Disney. The fact is that my whole family loves Disney. Our fondest memories include ones of going to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. My nieces, in particular, are avid consumers of all things associated with the Walt Disney Company. My brother’s favourite stuffed animal growing up was Winnie the Pooh.
So, Disney ought to thank my whole family. We made them what they are today, thanks to our endless financial contributions to their organization.
The reality is business is business, and Disney has the power right now. And the reason they have their power is because everyone loves Disney, there’s no denying it.
And because everyone has loved their movies and paid good money to see them, the Walt Disney Company has become much more than what Walt Disney himself ever envisioned when he started as an animator.
Not only does it now control multiple amusement parks all around the world, it also now owns the ABC television network as well as ESPN.
The company has made no shortage of strategic acquisitions in the film world over the years.
Remember the awful Harvey Weinstein, mentioned above? That independent film company he co-founded, Miramax, ended up being bought out by the Walt Disney Company. (Disney has since sold it.)
PIXAR, makers of Toy Story, Cars, UP, Finding Dory and no shortage of CGI-animated movies ended up being bought out by the Walt Disney Company as well.
Disney bought out rights to the Muppets. Yes, that’s right, folks, they even own the Muppets.
Of course, I have mentioned the acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, but that’s not the only money train they acquired:
Marvel Entertainment was acquired by the Walt Disney Company back in 2009!
As anyone who has read any of my box-office columns is aware, movies featuring Marvel characters – Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers, etc. – have been big financial hits at the cinemas for years.
As is the case with the Star Wars series, this is also a situation where distribution rights are tied up among other studios. Yes, Disney may own Marvel Entertainment, which allows them to put out movies featuring characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” (ie. Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy). But the distribution rights to Spider-Man are still tied up with Columbia. And the distribution rights to X-Men, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four franchises were tied up with … 20th Century Fox! There’s that name again!
Anyone with a business sense can put two and two together here and realize that Disney and 20th Century Fox have a few synergies with both their Star Wars and Marvel franchises. I’m sure folks at Disney were dreaming about how much easier life would be if this 20th Century Fox company would be under the same roof.
Now comes the latest news that has shaken Hollywood this month: the Walt Disney Company is acquiring most of Fox in a deal for $52.4 billion in stock.
A lot has been written about what this deal accomplishes. Here’s what it ultimately means to me: Disney will control the world.
It essentially means that when it comes to movies, X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four are now united under the same roof as the rest of the Marvel characters.
It means the entire Star Wars franchise is under one roof as well: the original movie and all the sequels, too.
That’s a heck of a lot of successful movie franchises now set to be controlled by Disney.
But that’s not all: Disney is also set to own the film libraries.
The studio that brought you Mary Poppins will now own the place that brought you The Sound of Music. The place that brought you Snow White, Bambi, and Pinocchio now takes over The King and I, Patton, The Planet of the Apes, M*A*S*H and Avatar, among others.
The funniest part of this deal is that this also means Disney gets Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Myra Breckinridge.
Walt Disney must be spinning in his grave over that prospect.
As a final exclamation point, this deal also means Walt Disney Company is now in charge of “The Simpsons.” Folks, if that fact doesn’t bring old Walt back up from the dead, nothing will.
This whole “new world order” is something that will take some getting used to for movie and TV fans. But this is the reality of life in 2017, going on 2018.
What’s more, it is a reality that we, the movie fans, have willing created. We simply cannot resist handing our money over to Disney whenever a Star Wars, Marvel, PIXAR, or any other of their movies comes along.
Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson, and Darth Vader, all together. This is a Disney world, and we are just living in it.