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Disney CFO Reaffirms Big Live-Action Films Must Fit Franchise Mold

Jay Rasulo also comments on Maker Studios acquisition, ABC upfront slate

Unless it’s a franchise, Disney isn’t all that interested in pursuing big live-action films.

That was the sentiment expressed by Jay Rasulo, Disney’s senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, during a Q&A session Wednesday at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit.

“We’re ratcheting down live action,” he said, adding that the company is being particularly careful to make sure any of its “blockbuster live-action (films) fit into some franchise strategy.”

The strategy reflects Disney’s continuing emphasis on sequel-friendly tentpole titles like “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” from its Marvel arm, and upcoming Walt Disney Pictures’ “Maleficent,” which the studio is hoping will be the start of a new franchise. There’s evidently still room for the occasional smaller budgeted project, with “Million Dollar Arm” coming to theaters this weekend.

This isn’t a new strategy for Disney.

It’s been talking about focusing on Disney friendly tentpoles since 2010 when Iger appointed Rich Ross to run Walt Disney Studios and rethink the kinds of movies it will make.

SEE ALSO: Rich Ross Reshapes Disney Film Studios

And the studio’s president of production, Sean Bailey, has been vocal on how the studio is focused on choosing projects in which it can build worlds on the big screen and elsewhere across the company.

SEE ALSO: Disney’s Sean Bailey: ‘Our Job is to Build Worlds’

During Rasulo’s presentation (pictured above, left), he also tempered expectations for how well Disney’s latest movies are doing.

“I’m not going to say this year is going to be a banner year,” he said, referencing the 2007-2008 years where the company’s operating income surpassed $1 billion. This year, he said the company was at around $800 million thus far.

During the hourlong session, Rasulo talked about everything from Disney’s “Daredevil” 13-episode deal with Netflix, to the company’s recent purchase of Maker Studios, something the topper said was “not an acquisition for IP,” but rather the multichannel network’s underlying technology.

Although Maker will continue to create original content, Rasulo said Disney is capitalizing on the acquisition’s 55,000 channels on YouTube to create and distribute short-form content for the likes of their upcoming projects, most notable “Star Wars.”

The Disney head also spoke about theme park integration and, on the heels of ABC’s upfront, which happened Tuesday, the fact that “we need better shows.” He said that, in under 24 hours, he could “already tell that advertisers are excited about what they saw.”

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