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Disney Pitches Theater Owners on Fox Purchase: ‘More Than the Sum of Our Parts’

Alan HornNational Board of Review Awards
Lexie Moreland/WWD/REX/Shutterst

Walt Disney Studios dazzled theater owners worried about the aftershocks of its $71.3 billion purchase of much of 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets by making a case that the two studios’ combined firepower will keep audiences flocking to cinemas.

In a sizzle reel, the studio showed clips from some of the biggest hits in their history. Fox classics such as “Die Hard,” “Predator,” “The Shape of Water,” “X-Men,” and “Avatar” were interwoven with scenes from Disney greats such as “Black Panther,” “Toy Story,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“Together we will be more than the sum of our parts,” promised Disney film chief Alan Horn. “I’m still getting my mind around all this and internalizing it,” he added.

The arsenal of top-shelf franchises means that Disney and Fox will control more than 40% of the box office, a state of play that will leave other competitors punching up. Together, the two studios released half of the top ten highest-grossing global movies, and six of the top ten highest-grossing domestic releases.

“Welcoming the Fox filmmaking team means we’re greatly expanding our collection of world class brands,” said Disney distribution chief Cathleen Taff.

The studio assumed the lion’s share of 21st Century Fox’s film and TV assets in early March. The Fox absorption created an historic content powerhouse with production, Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm — and the deep and historic film libraries attached to those brands, including Disney’s own animated vault.

The initial transition has taken an emotional toll on the West Los Angeles Fox lot, as many treasured and longtime employees were laid off. Fox domestic distribution head Chris Aronson and its foreign distribution chief Andrew Cripps, two favorites of theater owners, were among the pink slipped.

It also means that Disney will have to move the release dates of certain Fox films, which are currently slated to debut on the same day.

Disney didn’t just highlight Fox brands in its pitch to exhibitors. It also brought out some of the executive talent it now employs. Emma Watts, Twentieth Century Fox Film vice chairman, took the stage to present footage from upcoming Fox films such as James Mangold’s “Ford v. Ferrari” and the Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista comedy “Stuber.” Watts acknowledged it was awkward to be part of the presentation of a studio that until a month ago had been a competitor, but she made it clear that she does not believe any obituaries should be written for 20th Century Fox or Fox Searchlight.

“Legacies are made every day.” said Watts. “With the vast resources of the Walt Disney Studio behind us we are ready to write our next great chapter.”

At one point in its hour-plus presentation, Disney put up a slide that showed not just its upcoming slate of blockbusters such as “Avengers: Endgame” and “Lion King,” but the combined list of upcoming movies including such Fox releases as “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” “Woman in the Window” and “Call of the Wild.”

“Oh my God,” someone in the audience gasped.

A new era has dawned in Hollywood, and the Magic Kingdom is casting a massive shadow that won’t be equaled any time soon.