Producer and director Greg Berlanti expressed sadness and anxiety over the fate of diverse storytelling in commercial movies, on the heels of Disney’s decision to close the Fox 2000 film label it acquired last week.
Accepting the GLAAD Media Award for best feature for his Fox 2000 film “Love, Simon” on Thursday night in Los Angeles, Berlanti addressed the Fox-Disney deal in a crowd that included his old boss and former 20th Century Fox Film CEO Stacey Snider.
“Films like ‘Love, Simon’ aren’t tentpoles, but they also aren’t independent films. That’s why we need GLAAD more than ever. The fight for equality in our multiplexes is going to get more difficult, not easier,” Berlanti said.
Fox 2000 was a definitive home for midsize-budget films that did not rely on intellectual property like the major studios now do — none moreso than Disney, which also owns content engines Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. Fox 2000 was responsible for major one-off cultural moments like “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Life of Pi.” It also produced “Love, Simon,” a critically acclaimed coming-out story set in the suburbs of Chicago. It made $66 million worldwide on a $17 million budget.
As Disney focuses on building their streaming product Disney+, many industry insiders wondered what the company would do with an operation like Fox 2000 and its formidable leader Elizabeth Gabler, whose business is hinged on risk.
“Disney merged with Fox last week and in doing so, plans to eliminate Fox 2000,” Berlanti said mournfully. He then recalled his 2001 film “The Broken Hearts Club,” a groundbreaking romantic comedy that followed a group of gay men in Los Angeles. That was financed by Sony Pictures, which didn’t think the movie would get significant support from theaters because of its subject matter, Berlanti said.
“They shuttled it to an arthouse shingle,” Berlanti said of the film’s eventual home in Sony Pictures Classics, where an indie release gave it a fighting chance to become an iconic piece of queer filmmaking. Even without a Fox 2000 to support work like that, Berlanti finds hope in young filmmakers.
“Making movies like ‘Love, Simon’ and the TV shows I’m lucky to be a part of, I get to meet and work with a lot of young people. They are fearless. They are going to keep telling stories until every kid of every race, every gender, and every sexuality gets to go to the movies and watch their own ‘Love, Simon,'” said Berlanti.
Berlanti has an exclusive film directing deal at Fox, though the fate of his and many other overall agreements have not been clarified in the acquisition.