2017 came to a close with one of the most notable acquisitions in entertainment history, with Disney seeking to acquire 21st Century Fox. In an industry that Disney have stomped through for the last decade and transformed through buying big franchises, the question has to be asked: will we have Marvel and Star Wars films shoved down our throats ‘til we’re dead? It would be silly to think this acquisition had anything to do with how inevitable the continuation of major cinematic universes is, but about the power Disney will now have over not just the silver screen, but every screen around the world.
When it comes to big businesses, coincidences don’t exist – Disney pulled all their content from Netflix (US) and then acquired the company with one of the largest competitors to Netflix. 21st Century Fox are the joint owners of Hulu in America (it’s not available in Ireland), along with Disney and Comcast, which streams shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Seinfeld, The Office, Parks and Rec, and so on. The Disney acquisition now gives them the controlling shareholding position over Hulu, and a foothold to challenge Netflix’s rule over your Sunday nights. Competition isn’t bad in the streaming service market, because there aren’t many stiff rivalries, with Netflix still being a few feet ahead of everyone else.
Even here in Ireland, we feel the effect of Mickey Mouse’s grip over entertainment as Disney now seem to be in a position to take over Sky. I’m sure nothing major will change immediately here, as Europe is in a more complicated position, but this move shows a shift from Disney having a little influence over what we watch at home to controlling what’s on every screen in our houses. We’ll likely see the expansion of Hulu into our country in the near-future, so between cinemas, TVs, and anything that can stream video, Disney will be there.
Anyone who loves their comic book movies will likely be screaming at my pessimism over the deal, because the X-Men will finally get to star alongside our favourite heroes like Iron Man and Captain America. From a movie-goer perspective, it’s great that the divides that kept them apart are about to be broken, and we will get to see some collaborations that were left to the comic book pages in the past become reality now. It’s the cost of this happening that leaves me with a sobering sensation in the face of indulgence with the potential for comic book movies now. Disney shifted their strategy in relation to filmmaking/distribution over the last decade, with quality being a defining factor over quantity, with minimal risks. Disney released around 12 films in 2017, while Fox had its hand in over 30 films – the main thing to consider in this is that Disney had the made the most money compared to all its rivals, but using less films. Fox on the other hand took gambles with smaller films, especially through its Fox Searchlight branch. Film is about new experiences, being unique, and displaying creativity – Fox has facilitated this over the years, as Fox Searchlight helped make films like The Shape of Water, Battle of the Sexes, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which are all in distinct contention this award season.
This acquisition could still be stopped by the US government, but in the likely scenario that it isn’t we face a possibly bleak situation where Fox are twisted to fit the Disney business model – where money is all important and will always trounce taking creative risks so to further the industry. Disney has followed this formula of mass appeal to all ages in order to maximise how much money they make off their films, and it leaves me deeply worried where Fox fits into their plans when it comes to film industry. If there was ever any doubt that Disney were one of the largest conglomerates in the entertainment world, this acquisition has confirmed it, and left us without doubt that Mickey Mouse will be invading our homes in the near future.