It’s no surprise that the pending Disney/Fox merger has the potential to drastically change the movie industry, but just how much of it one company could actually control is remarkable. Together, Disney and Fox are responsible for about half of 2018’s domestic box office as of now, and if Disney ends up that big a force all by itself, the ramifications could be felt in every corner of the business.
While an analyst tells CNN that he expects the total combined share of Disney and Fox to shrink to 40% of the box office total by the end of the year, because the two studios have released most of their major films of the year already, that’s still a quite impressive percentage. Disney has been the top studio by percentage the last two years, and is currently, and Fox hasn’t been lower than fourth since 2013.
This combined power has the potential to give Disney even more weight to throw around than it already has. Last year it was reported that Disney was expecting a higher than normal percentage of ticket sales for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and with the added power of Fox, the bargaining position for Disney with regards to all its films is only improved. With additional tentpole franchises to play with, like the X-Men and Avatar, Disney would likely be able to control the entire release calendar, staking out whatever windows it wants, and leaving whatever remains for everybody else.
But blockbusters aren’t the only place where Disney would have significant power. One of the companies that Disney will be picking up if this deal goes through is Fox Searchlight, known for creating higher prestige films like the most recent Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. While Disney has made attempts to make those sorts of movies in the past, they’ve met with limited success. There’s no reason to believe that Fox Searchlight, however, won’t continue to make high-quality, award-winning, movies into the future, so Disney could become a major player in this market segment without having to do much of anything.
While there are certainly elements of the Disney/Fox deal that are potentially great from the standpoint of a movie fan, like seeing the X-Men join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from a business standpoint, the deal is a bit more concerning. Certainly, market share isn’t the be all, end all. There’s nothing Disney’s new company can do to outright prevent other studios from having successful movies, but it will certainly put Disney in a position where they have a level of control of the industry that no studio has ever had before. Even once the deal is done, which hasn’t happened yet, it will take some time before these changes really take place, but you can be sure they will happen.