While The Simpsons apparently predicted the deal in 1997, many of us were surprised by the word that Disney is negotiating with 21st Century Fox to acquire a chunk of their assets. Although many questions about such a deal have been answered, many still remain. Here are my top five questions that I would like to see answered were the deal to go through.
Why does Disney want to get in the non-branded film business again?
After years of telling us that there was no market for medium-sized non-branded films, why would Disney want to get in business with a studio that has just a few franchises? After shuttering Hollywood Pictures and Touchstone, why get back into the non-tentpole business? The answer probably lies with the streaming services that Disney now finds itself invested in. While theatrical films struggle to get attention in a crowded marketplace, services such as Netflix need a swath of content to make the service desirable and to keep up subscriptions. Since Disney only released seven films in 2017, that means that there wouldn't even be a new movie on the service each month. To Disney, the theatrical window is probably secondary to the movie's life after the theater.
What streaming platform will non-family friendly content land on?
At the last earnings call, Bob Iger said that there would not be R-rated content on the streaming service. While PG-13 Marvel and Star Wars films will be included, they are not looking to host any content that wouldn't fit inside a Disney theme park. So where would films like Alien and Porky's reside? One theory is that, since Disney would own the majority of Hulu, that would be converted into a service for Disney's non-family friendly content. Of course, Disney may be reconsidering the positioning of their service with this acquisition as well. I am sure Disney would not take too much time to clear this issue up, as it will be integral for investors to know what their thinking is.
Will Marvel Studios increase their output?
Marvel fans are salivating at the thought of the X-Men and Fantastic Four being introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But would this mean we would actually get fewer Marvel movies in a year? Next year, Marvel Studios will be releasing three MCU films, while Fox is releasing three X-Men (or X-Men adjacent) films. Is it realistic for Marvel Studios to produce six films a year? If they do, would they be able to keep their quality streak going? While the market has not shown signs of superhero fatigue if the superhero movie is good, how much MCU is too much?
How will National Geographic's travel business fit in?
21st Century Fox has a controlling interest in National Geographic's content business with the non-profit National Geographic Society controlling the rest. One business that they have is National Geographic Expeditions, which offers guided tours to exotic locales in the same vein of Adventures by Disney. Will the two competitors merge their operations?
Will the Fox Fanfare be restored to the Star Wars films?
This one might be silly, but let's all agree that the Star Wars films are missing something without the famous Fox Fanfare before we see "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away..." When the classic trilogy was released digitally, only Episode IV contained the iconic opening. Let's hope that they will not only restore it to the first six films but also incorporate it into future Star Wars films as a way of harkening back to the series' history.