By Parker Carlson
Something needs to be said on the state of Hollywood. It’s something that’s been bugging me all summer long and is only exacerbated by nobody talking about it. It’s about Disney, specifically, how much they own.
As a backstory, way back when in the simpler days of March 2019, Disney completed their buyout of Fox studios. There was a lot of hubbub about it, but if you asked around, especially on campus, all we ever talked about was about the future of our favorite franchises. People flocked to rejoice that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will finally be seeing mutants like the X-Men, but no one talked about what the implications of that buyout meant.
Cue early August, where Fox, now under the command of Disney executives, cancelled almost all of their ongoing projects in development. From what I could find, that was over 276 potential films. Sure, it’s disappointing to see your favorite actor or director get their next project scrapped. It’s also easy to push it off because most of those films won’t get made anyways, but that’s not the problem.
The problem is that almost all of those projects were helmed by someone new in the industry. The films that got tossed out are the new, original ideas that fix one Hollywood’s oldest problems that we complain about all the time: the endless waves of sequels, spin-offs, and series. The people hurt most by this are the consumers and the little guys, you know, people like us. Each and every single one of those cancelled projects had the potential to employ hundreds of workers or launch the careers of the makers. That’s where this issue really strikes deep, because Hollywood isn’t known as a diverse market that’s easy to get into. Ask around this studio, with countless people working on The Reel Deal alone, and nine times out of ten they want to go into this industry or somewhere tangentially related. This is major news that isn’t getting talked about enough from our peers. Worst of all, most of us aren’t even aware of the problem in the first place.
36 years ago, in 1983, around 50 companies owned all of television, film, and media in general. Today, there’s six. These are some of the wealthiest companies with the shadiest business practices. Remember those great memories you had in your small town where you’d go to the local cinema or drive in theater? Those were great times, key word: were. Thanks to policies like from Disney, where every movie must be played for a month or two and almost all ticket sales go to said company, local mom and pop theaters with one or two screens cannot afford to stay open anymore. Let’s assume, however, that you never had memories of locally owned cinemas. What do these business decisions mean for you, the average movie-goer?
Well first, more uninspired cookie cutter releases. The whole choice to drop the 273 film projects was based on the latest fiscal quarter figures. Given that Fox lost around $170
million, Disney is less likely to bankroll any project with risky new ideas and instead fund films they know will perform well at the box office. Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, was even said to have assigned film executives Alan Horn and Alan Bergman to make sure that future projects will have the “discipline and creative standards” that Disney is known for.
Then, it means fewer releases all together. Even with all these faults, Disney knows exactly what they’re doing. By buying out Fox, they have essentially eliminated one of their biggest competitors. Now that Disney has full control over the movies Fox pumps out, they could limit them to release in sparse quantities to make sure Disney only has one major blockbuster released at a time, preventing more consumer choices.
What does that mean for our future? When we’re well into our careers where everything we’ve worked on is owned, funded, and controlled by a company that regularly rakes in billions of dollars. How do you think your voice is going to be heard? We’re two steps away from an Orwellian future where every piece of entertainment we consume is owned and doctored by a single conglomerate.
I don’t want to spoil our fun here at The Reel Deal, but I firmly believe that this needs to be said. After all, we are an entertainment news show, so it is our job to at least get you thinking about all the entertainment you consume and how it’s made. As students itching to get into the field, we should be worried about this. All too often it’s easy to sink into apathy about these issues, because we’re too busy to worry about politics in corporate America. Unless we voice our opinions or vote with our wallets, Disney and other like-minded companies are set to do more of the same. More competition gets flaked out, more indie projects go under, and less choices will be presented to consumers. Now’s the time to become a responsible audience. We need to all think about just exactly what is going on behind the scenes, who benefits from it, and what message we’re sending by enabling it. We are this industry’s future and we have a say in this.