The Disney Death Star has finally arrived. The company’s merger with Fox, completed this week, will radically reshape the Hollywood movie landscape. The math reveals a staggering picture: Last year, Disney’s overall market share for the domestic box office was 26 percent—placing the studio ahead of its five major competitors, not to mention a host of smaller independent companies. 20th Century Fox, a longtime rival, had the fifth-largest share (9.1 percent) and more than 1 billion dollars in grosses. Together, Disney and Fox now command 35 percent of the movie market—a historic number for cinema.
The chilling implications of such a merger have been widely explored since the deal was first mooted in 2017. Disney had already become a pop-culture juggernaut after its acquisition of the Star Wars and Marvel brands over the past decade, on top of its existing animation studios (Walt Disney and Pixar). In 2016, Disney set a record for worldwide grosses in a calendar year; in 2018, it recorded the second-highest total in history. The company’s dominance of the film industry was already indisputable. But with Fox, it has gained a tremendous new asset.
Disney didn’t acquire the entire company, leaving behind its network-TV channel and news and sports programming (which are now part of the rebranded Fox Corp). But along with 20th Century Fox, Disney now owns the prestige film company Fox Searchlight; the cable channels FX and National Geographic; Fox’s TV production company (which owns The Simpsons); most of Hulu; a huge library of classic films stretching back more than 80 years; and (most crucially to many a comic-book fan) the rights to Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four characters, who can now be folded into the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe. The initial announcement of the merger stirred up so much online excitement about many of these details that some of the larger implications of the Disney-Fox deal got drowned out.
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