Disney, a company long-known for their family-friendly content and uncanny ability to make even the most sour of cinephiles crack a smile, is reportedly wearing a frown after reviewing Twentieth Century Fox’s earnings from this past quarter. In what’s been dubbed by Variety as a sharp reprimand from Disney chief executive Bob Iger, Fox staffers were told that the studio’s performance was “well below where it had been and well below where we hoped it would be when we made the acquisition.” While reports indicate that Iger’s tone was even, his words also sent a clear message to those on the receiving end that the House of Mouse is looking for Fox to earn their end of a very large bargain.
Those close to the matter have suggested that Walt Disney Studios chief creative officer and co-chairman Alan Horn and co-chairman Alan Bergman have become somewhat disillusioned by returns from Fox’s recent efforts, such as Simon Kinberg‘s DARK PHOENIX, Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani‘s STUBER, and director Simon Curtis‘ THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. To be frank, all three were flops, and no amount of Digital or Blu-ray sales will help make up the deficit left by their vastly underwhelming box office performance.
Among several of Fox’s finished projects that have yet to receive a concrete release date is director Josh Boone‘s THE NEW MUTANTS. As you’re likely to know, Boone’s film has been surrounded on all sides by negative press, after re-shoots and tonal shifts led many to believe that the film is doomed to fail before it even has a chance to hit theaters. As if that isn’t bad enough, a new report indicates that Disney is “unimpressed” with THE NEW MUTANTS, a spinoff that promised to inject a bit of horror into the once-lauded X-Men franchise. Unfortunately, after reviewing the film, Disney has little faith in its box office potential.
Adding insult to injury, it’s also been suggested that the studio is “grappling with how to fit the very R-rated Deadpool into its PG-13-rated Marvel Cinematic Universe.” For the moment, “the goal is to find a way for the character to move seamlessly between “Avengers” spinoffs and bloody, profane stand-alone adventures.” (via Variety)
With regard to the Deadpool dilemma, it’s very much a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation. Meaning that if Disney announces a PG-13 Deadpool film, the studio risks backlash and alienation from a vast majority of the character’s most rabid fanbase. Of course, these are the individuals who feel as if the Merc with a Mouth must be R-rated to remain “on-brand.” On the other end of that spectrum, should Disney develop an R-rated Deadpool film, they stand a chance of upsetting parents and teens, both of which remain a significant portion of the studio’s audience.
In short, Fox has some work to do if they’re to make the top brass happy with their choosing to absorb the studio and its properties. That being said, Disney remains confident that IPs the likes of the X-Men and Fantastic Four will do well under the guidance of Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige. Arguably, those are just two pieces of a very large pie, and Fox will need to turn things around if they hope to earn their keep.