Photo Courtesy of: JD Hancock/ Flickr
Pixar. Marvel. Star Wars. The Muppets. ABC. Hulu. ESPN. National Geographic. FX. What do all these things have in common? They have all become enveloped into the Buena Vista brand, more recognizably known as the Walt Disney Company.
Disney has been a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry for nearly a century, from it’s classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia to more recent blockbusters like Tangled and Frozen. But the true power of Disney started to show when it began acquiring massive franchises like Marvel Studios, Star Wars, and the most recent and largest purchase, Twentieth Century Fox.
With all of these tremendous assets under their belt, Disney has been constantly dominating the box office, generating between 20 and 40 percent of the annual box office each year since 2016 (the year after they released Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). They even set a new world record in July of this year, with Avengers: Endgame passing Fox’s Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time with $2.8 billion.
On top of this, every purchase they have made is going into their latest project, a subscription-based streaming service called Disney+. This service will include the entire Walt Disney Studio back catalog, as well as all movies from Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars. This service will also introduce great amounts of original content, such as Loki, The Mandalorian, What If?, Ms. Marvel and The World According to Jeff Goldblum.
But what does all of this mean for the rest of the industry, as well as the future of Disney themselves?
To start, the evidence of how powerful Disney’s assets are has really started to show this year, with the studio already having made $2.78 billion at the domestic box office. To put this in perspective, that is nearly as much as the domestic gross of Universal, Warner Bros., and Columbia combined ($2.86 billion). All three of these studios were founded before Disney, have each made at least 200 more movies than Disney, and Disney has still made over $6 billion more than the highest grossing of the other studios, Warner Bros.
This year in particular is showcasing a major slump in box office for other big studios. While Disney has been producing smash after smash, big-budget would-be blockbusters like Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Shazam! and The Secret Life of Pets 2 all at least slightly underperformed in theaters, each losing in total gross to their Disney competition each time. Some have credited this to sequel fatigue and poor marketing, but the truth is that it isn’t poor marketing, it’s just less marketing.
Most of the trailers shown before kids movies are Disney trailers, and the movies themselves tend to be Disney movies as well. Plus, sequel fatigue isn’t a valid reason, as two of the six movies Disney has released this year (Endgame and Toy Story 4) have been sequels, and three others have just been remakes of older Disney movies (Dumbo, Aladdin and The Lion King).
All of this sequel/remake money for Disney may not be the best for the studio, as they might (and, quite honestly, probably has) get into the mindset that they don’t need to make as much original content if they know they still are going to rake in the dough. This is not only a creative problem for Disney, but for other studios as well, with more artistic movies like Rocketman, Yesterday and Brightburn all being somewhat overlooked for not trying to appeal to the modern mainstream audience.
But maybe there’s a method to Disney’s money-making madness. To understand this, their upcoming streaming service must be taken into account. Many studios, Disney included, have been worried about the amount of box office money they will lose due to streaming services like Netflix (which was seemingly disproven last year with $11.85 billion, the biggest year for the industry ever), but Disney is taking it one step further with Disney+.
The reason for all of the remakes could be that they want/need content for their service in order to compete with the endless sea of options on Netflix, and redoing their previous work could be an easy and less creatively draining of doing that.
It will be interesting to see how this service will affect Disney, Netflix, and the rest of the industry, but one fact remains undeniable: There is no sign that Disney will be coming down from its castle anytime soon, and their Fantasia of success is looking to continue for many years to come. And as Walt Disney himself would say, “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse.”
This story was originally published on The Chatterbox on September 12, 2019.