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Layoffs Hit Both Disney and Fox Film Groups (EXCLUSIVE)

Layoffs are taking place across both Walt Disney Studios and 20th Century Fox on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the combined studios confirmed to Variety. The cuts are being made specifically in film staff, an individual with knowledge of the company said, and come on the heels of the Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets.

Disney has not said officially which specific departments will be impacted, although the distribution division, particularly staffers overseeing the domestic rollout of films, are expected to be among the hardest hit. Cuts in the publicity and marketing departments are expected to take place on Thursday. More information is expected after pink slips are handed out, another insider added.

Content monolith Disney acquired Fox in March. Last week, the studio clarified its release calendar, folding in numerous high profile projects from Fox, including setting dates for the debuts of James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequels, as well as smaller projects such as the Amy Adams thriller “The Woman in the Window.”

The last significant round of layoffs occurred on March 21, when dozens of 21st Century Fox executives were given pink slips in the first wave of what is expected to be as many as 4,000 layoffs. Those cuts will take place across the units Disney acquired in the content space, as well as at the newly formed Fox Corp., the television company forged out of the Murdoch family’s remaining entertainment and broadcasting assets.

The layoffs are the human toll of the merger designed to fortify Disney and help it stay competitive in the fast-changing media and entertainment marketplace of the future. Disney has pledged to achieve $2 billion in synergy savings by 2021. There is no question that a great deal of that will come from job cuts.

Disney is not expected to initiate any mass layoffs on the television side in the near future. Fox’s TV network groups — FX Networks and Nat Geo — were distinct from Disney’s existing operations so there was no immediate duplication. The layoffs that hit the TV group after the deal closed in March were in domestic and international distribution, which were redundant with Disney’s existing infrastructure.

Sources said the studio side has brought together the three main production units — 20th Century Fox TV, ABC studios and Fox 21 Television Studios — to operate as separate labels. A source said there may be some consolidation in administrative and back office functions down the road. But those decisions will come in time after top managers have had a chance to evaluate how things are running. A senior source said there is no target number for layoffs nor a timetable.

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.

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