The true cost of X-Men: Dark Phoenix’s failure is revealed
The true cost of the Fox/Disney merger is finally coming to light.
During Disney’s quarterly earnings call to investors, CEO Bob Iger confirmed that the house of mouse had suffered a whopping $170 million loss in the third quarter related to the titles it inherited from 20th Century Fox. The majority of this failure has been attributed to the categorical failure of the abhorrent X-Men: Dark Phoenix which was wholly rejected by moviegoers across the world. “The Fox studio performance … was well below where it had been and well below where we’d hoped it would be when we made the acquisition,” Iger said during an earnings call, acknowledging that Fox leadership had been in a difficult spot during the window between negotiating and completing the merger.
He went to confirm that he has tasked Alan Horn and Alan Bergman to apply the same “discipline and creative standards” to the Fox division which exist under the Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar banners. Iger also said that they will be scraping the majority of projects in development at Fox as they take the label “in a new direction, with an all-new development slate that will focus on a select group of properties designed to “consolidate and to cut back on the number of releases so as to focus on the kind of release that we hope would come out of that studio.”
Despite the cancellation of so many Fox projects, there is some good news. James Cameron’s catalogue of Avatar sequels is safe, as is the continuation of the Planet of the Apes franchise which will come as welcome news to fans. Fox Searchlight will continue with business as usual and the studio will now also make movies for Disney+. Fox’s superhero properties including the X-Men, Fantastic 4 and Deadpool have all reverted beneath the Marvel Studios umbrella and now reside under the creative influence of Marvel’s Kevin Feige.
Iger’s comments confirmed what insiders have speculated about for months: Fox is now a pared-down label that lives alongside Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Disney Pixar and Disney Animation. Sources close to the consolidation process say the 20th Century Fox stable could make just 10 or more movies a year, with more than half expected to head directly to Disney’s new streaming service or Hulu, which is now controlled by Disney.
For a film touted as the culmination to the Fox X-Men saga, Dark Phoenix cost a whopping $200 million to produce before marketing and earned just $252.4 million at the worldwide box office which is a catastrophic loss from what used to be one of Fox’s tentpole properties. The movie failed to improve upon the studios’ last attempt at the Dark Phoenix property, coincidentally helmed by Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg who fumbled the ball and put the Fox X-Men saga out to pasture in the worst possible way.
In terms of appropriating assets from the 20th Century Fox library, Iger said on Tuesday that Disney will be rebooting tentpole franchises like Night at the Museum, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Home Alone and Cheaper by the Dozen for the Disney+ streaming service.
This alteration of the Fox production schedule can be viewed in one of two ways. It could symbolise the end of an era and the retirement of a once-great Hollywood titan, or you could choose to see the brighter side and take solace from the fact that with tighter reins and a clear and concise vision, Fox may just produce some of its best work in years. Over the last two years, the studio made a habit of tampering with its properties just weeks ahead of release which culminated in some very confused tentpole movies.
The Predator was the worst affected by this studio manipulation. The original screenplay for the movie written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker was a triumph (just read the novelisation!) and it harnessed the very best of the Predator iconography. However, after Fox decided to manhandle the project and reshoot the majority of the second act, the plot of the movie fell apart and resembled very little of what should have been the climax to end all climaxes.
For me, the truth is somewhere between both outlooks. I believe Disney is doing the right thing by controlling the release slate with an iron fist and installing a better standard of quality control. And yet, I cannot deny my sadness at seeing one of the best studios in Hollywood history being picked apart by the circling sharks.
Only time will tell if Disney’s roadmap leads Fox to the promised land.
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager and Editor of Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, Batman, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter @philthecool where he uses the force frequently!