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Just like that, Disney’s movie studio has doubled its calendar for 2019.
In closing its historic $71.3 billion acquisition of a large swath of 21st Century Fox, the House that Walt Built has inherited 20th Century Fox film, Fox 2000 and Oscar powerhouse Fox Searchlight. The deal was finalized just past midnight ET on Wednesday.
The merger gives Disney dominion over James Cameron’s Avatar franchise, the Kingsman series and the X-Men universe, including Deadpool, which will now be guided by Kevin Feige’s Marvel Studios. Avatar 2 has a plum year-end release date of Dec. 18, 2020.
The nuptials also give Disney — known for all-audience tentpoles — access to a diverse slate of adult dramas and specialty titles, including James Mangold’s untitled Ford v. Ferrari film, starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon, and Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window, starring Amy Adams and Julianne Moore.
Taking over the marketing and distribution of the various Fox movies will be a complicated task. Disney has 10 movies dated for release between now and New Year’s Day — many believe it will be the studio’s biggest year ever — while Fox likewise has 10 (not including Searchlight titles).
Don’t be surprised if some Fox titles move. James Gray’s sci-fi epic Ad Astra, starring Brad Pitt, is set to fly into theaters May 24, the same date that Disney’s Aladdin debuts. But nearly two months out, almost no marketing materials have been released for Astra, indicating that it won’t be ready. (Pitt’s other summer movie is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, from Sony, which released its first trailer on Wednesday.)
Fox’s Call of the Wild, starring Harrison Ford and Dan Stevens, is slotted to sled into theaters Dec. 25, just five days after Disney and Lucasfilm’s untitled Star Wars: Episode IX blasts off Dec. 20. While there’s certainly room for more than one movie at Christmas, opening two movies so near to each other that are from one studio could prompt a switch for Call of the Wild.
“How will Disney treat marketing for films which launch near each other,” asks Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners, “especially if they go after similar demographics?”
Mangold’s Ford v. Ferrari movie, set to open in the heart of awards season on Nov. 15, is among the films that 20th Century Fox vice chair Emma Watts is taking with her to Disney, where she’ll keep the same title. Peter Chernin’s Chernin Entertainment, a producer on the film, is shifting its film deal to Disney as well.
The Woman in the Window (Oct. 4), produced by Scott Rudin, is from Fox 2000, headed by Elizabeth Gabler, who is joining Disney. Fox 2000 has The Art of Racing this year as well on Sept. 27.
Searchlight — whose co-chiefs, Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, are likewise going to Disney — has only one film dated so far for 2019, Tolkien (May 10), and hasn’t yet announced the release plans for Lucy in the Sky, starring Natalie Portman.
Disney’s remaining calendar for the year includes Dumbo (March 29), DisneyNature’s Penguins (April 17), Avengers: Endgame (April 26), Toy Story 4 (June 21), The Lion King (July 19), Artemis Fowl (Aug. 9), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Oct. 18) and Frozen 2 (Nov. 22).
Fox’s 2019 slate includes the faith-based film Breakthrough (April 17), X-Men spinoff Dark Phoenix (June 7), Stuber (July 12) and New Mutants (Aug. 2), which could also be relocated, and the animated pic Spies in Disguise, voiced by Will Smith and Tom Holland (Sept. 13).
Disney has yet to announce exactly when it will begin marketing and distributing Fox movies (it wasn’t allowed to rearrange scheduling until the merger closed). It’s also unclear whether some movies will directly go to Disney+, the new streaming service that launches later this year.
In regard to Fox’s 2020, Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman prequel was recently pushed back from November 2019 to Feb. 14, 2020, while 20th Century Fox’s Ryan Reynolds comedy Free Guys has been dated for July 3. (Reynolds is also developing the next iteration of the Deadpool series.) And Fox’s Murder on the Orient Express follow-up Death of the Nile is set for Oct. 3, 2020.
High-profile Fox projects that are likely to be ready for 2020 include Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, which is set to begin shooting this year. And Cameron’s next three Avatar movies following the 2020 sequel have release dates of Dec. 17, 2021, Dec. 20, 2024, and Dec. 19, 2025, respectively.
In 2018, Disney commanded 26 percent of market share at the box office. That’s sure to zoom past last year, based on the strength of the studio’s slate and the acquisition of Fox.
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