Walt Disney Pictures dominates the global filmed entertainment industry. It continues to produce its own hugely successful self-generated content, most notably now a series of remakes of the most celebrated animated features in its archive, such as 'The Lion King', 'Aladdin', 'The Jungle Book' and 'Mulan'. These are accompanied by the output from three other production units acquired between 2006 and 2012 and each just as, if not more, influential in its own right: Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, home of the Star Wars franchise. Yet another production banner was added to the collection in 2019 with the acquisition of what is now 20th Century Studios. (Disney dropped the Fox from 20th Century Fox at the beginning of 2020). Together these give the Disney organisation an unrivalled mastery of the global entertainment industry from theatrical exhibition to home entertainment, and on into stage performance, live events, theme park exhibits and consumer licensing. By early, no fewer than 25 separate Disney releases have taken more than $1bn at the worldwide box office, including three at more than $2bn. (No other studio has more than six). Disney has been responsible for the biggest grossing cinematic release worldwide every year since 2015. In most years, it has at least the top two releases; in 2016, it had the top six. 'Avengers: Endgame' was the biggest individual release of 2019 - and of all-time - with a global gross of $2.8bn. 'The Lion King' was the #2 picture globally at almost $1.7bn, followed by 'Frozen II' at a final total of $1.5bn. 'Captain Marvel', 'Toy Story 4' and 'Aladdin' all topped $1bn, while December release 'Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker' was a late arrival as the year's #10 top-grosser, passing the $1bn early the following year. However, 2020 was of course a different story altogether. But by early in that Covid-impacted year the group had already established a new distribution method with streaming service Disney+. 'Mulan' and 'Soul' became the flagships for the group's new strategy, loss-leaders to win over new subscribers. Long-delayed 'Black Widow' will now be, in summer 2021, the test case for a return to theatrical distribution. The impact of the pandemic on performance, however, has been clear. Revenues for the year to Sept 2020 slipped by 13% to $9.6bn; operating income by 7% to $2.5bn. The contribution from theatrical distribution fell by more than half, with TV and subscription video on demand becoming the division's single biggest revenue stream at 62% of sales. That figure includes an internal accounting of sales of content to Disney+. The bulk of Disney's most desirable streamed content will now be available exclusively via its own subscription-based platform, not from other services. The juggernaut rolls on. Alan Bergman is now chairman of Disney Studios Content.
Capsule checked 30th June 2021
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Historical profile information for Walt Disney Company
Marketer Moves 12th Oct 2021: Disney Studios chief to depart. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 1st Oct 2021: Scarlett Johansson settled her dispute with Disney over the simultaneous release of her 'Black Widow' movie in cinemas and on Disney+. Johansson had sued Disney for loss of earnings: a large element of her fee for the movie had been tied to theatrical box office performance. Johansson claims that 'Black Widow's box office takings - around $380m worldwide - were less than they would have been for a cinema-only release. She is reported to have been seeking an additional $80m settlement on top of her $20m upfront fee. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but she and Disney both confirmed they are continuing to work together on other projects.
Adbrands Daily Update 13th Sep 2021: Disney backtracked on a previously announced plan to release all its new movies simultaneously in cinemas and on the Disney+ streaming channel. Instead it will now release the rest of its 2021 slate for an exclusive period in cinemas only, before making them available on Disney+. Live action movies will play in cinemas for at least 45 days, and animated ones for at least 30 days. The change of strategy follows a bitter row with 'Black Widow' star Scarlett Johansson, who has sued the media giant for loss of earnings, a large part of which were tied to cinema box office results. Other actors are also rumoured to have filed complaints over the dual availability strategy, as have cinema owners. More recently, another release, 'Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings', was made available in US cinemas only and unexpectedly achieved record ticket sales over the Labor Day holiday.
Adbrands Daily Update 14th Sep 2020: Disney's bold experiment to release the live-action 'Mulan' movie at a premium price on the Disney+ streaming service has encountered problems both in the West and in China as a result of a rare political misstep on Disney's part. Though almost all of the film's exterior scenes were shot in New Zealand, around one minute of location footage was filmed in Xianjiang, the region of China where Uighur Muslims are being forcibly interned in "re-education" camps. It's unlikely anyone would have been aware of this were it not for the movie's end credits, which include notes of thanks to eight government agencies in that region. This was spotted by Western viewers, prompting a social media storm in which activists demanded a boycott of the movie on political grounds. If that was not embarrassing enough for Disney, Chinese authorities have themselves reacted furiously to the Western outcry, issuing orders to local media outlets not to provide any coverage of the movie. The end-result is likely to be serious financial damage to Disney, which had taken enormous steps to tailor the film to Chinese audiences.
Adbrands Daily Update 20th Jan 2020: Disney is dropping the Fox name from 20th Century Fox movies and its arthouse satellite Fox Searchlight. The company has made no official comment, but the move is widely understood to be an attempt to distance the business from the remaining Murdoch-controlled Fox Corporation media operation, and especially Fox News. The main movie division rebrands as 20th Century Studios, while Fox Searchlight becomes Searchlight Pictures. No decision has yet been made about the 20th Century Fox TV Studios production business. However, that unit has comparatively low awareness among consumers by comparison with the movie division.
Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Jan 2020: Disney dominated the global cinematic box office in 2019 as never before. In the US, helped by its acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox, it achieved an unprecedented 38% of cinema ticket sales. Globally its dominance was slightly less pronounced at 27% share, but that was only slightly less than all three of the next biggest studios combined. Disney owned seven of the top ten grossing movies worldwide, and had a hand in producing an eighth (Spiderman Far From Home, produced by Marvel but funded and distributed by Sony). Disney's worldwide box office takings for 2019 are estimated at around $11.1bn, out of a combined total in excess of $41.3bn. Warner Bros' global takings were $4.4bn, with $3.5bn for Universal and Sony on $3.4bn.
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