- Disney made major changes to its release schedule on Tuesday, and it shows how the company will dominate Hollywood for close to another decade.
- “Avatar” sequels and new “Star Wars” movies will be released alternately from 2022 to 2027.
- Disney axed Fox’s planned Marvel movies except for “The New Mutants,” which was pushed back for a third time.
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Disney’s acquisition of Fox — in which the Mouse House bought Fox’s film studio and many of its television assets — was an industry-shaking deal worth $71.3 billion. The deal finally closed in March, and now Disney is shaking up its own movie release schedule.
Disney announced a bevy of changes on Tuesday that could shape the movie industry for the next eight years.
The changes impact sequels to Fox’s 2009 blockbuster, “Avatar,” which is still the highest-grossing movie of all time until Disney/Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Endgame” catches up; includes three new “Star Wars” movies after this year’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”; and nixes all of Fox’s planned “X-Men” movies, save for “The New Mutants,” which has been pushed back yet again.
Director James Cameron is developing four “Avatar” sequels that were originally set to be released in 2020, 2021, 2024, and 2025. Disney has pushed them back to December 2021, 2023, 2025, 2027. Three new “Star Wars” movies will be released in the alternating years — December 2022, 2024, and 2026 — all but guaranteeing that Disney will dominate the Christmas season at the box office for close to another decade.
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But it’s not just the Christmas season. Disney has an iron grip on the box office that likely won’t be loosened for years to come. It topped $7 billion at the worldwide box office in 2018. The only other time a studio did that was in 2016 (also Disney). And it will probably happen again this year.
“Endgame” is breaking records at an unprecedented speed, and passed Cameron’s “Titanic” (the man has made some hits) in less than two weeks to become the second-highest grossing movie of all time with $2.2 billion. And expected Disney blockbusters like “The Lion King” and “The Rise of Skywalker” are still on the way.
This Tuesday tweet from Exhibitor Relations sums up Disney’s Hollywood domination: “Disney just dropped around 30 release date changes as they incorporate Fox into their master plans — I imagine every other studio in Hollywood just cancelled lunch plans for today.”
Disney promised a slowdown on “Star Wars” movies. It will wait three years.
After “Solo: A Star Wars Story” disappointed at the box office last year (it failed to crack $400 million at the global box office), Disney promised a “slowdown” on “Star Wars” movies following this December’s “The Rise of Skywalker.”
But it will only wait three years. It’s technically a slowdown from the movie-a-year strategy, but still a quicker turnaround than expected. The next new “Star Wars” movie to hit theaters will be in 2022, and in the meantime, “Star Wars” TV shows are being developed for Disney’s upcoming streaming platform, Disney Plus. The first of them, the live-action “The Mandalorian,” will debut when the service launches November 12.
READ MORE: 5 confirmed ‘Star Wars’ projects are coming after ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ — here are all the details
It shows that Disney is confident in its content even after a misfire like “Solo.” Three of the four Disney “Star Wars” movies since 2015 have grossed over $1 billion globally, and “The Force Awakens” made $2 billion.
“We’re not just looking at what the next three movies might be, or talking about this in terms of a trilogy,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said at “Star Wars” Celebration last month. “We’re looking at: What is the next decade of storytelling?”
While it’s unclear what the new “Star Wars” movies on the release schedule are, it likely to be something Disney has already announced.
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson is developing a “Star Wars” trilogy separate from the main saga that will conclude with “The Rise of Skywalker.” “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are also working on a series of “Star Wars” movies. Kennedy has said that they are “working very closely” together on their projects.
Fox’s Marvel vision doesn’t line up with Disney’s
With the merger, Disney now owns the film rights to Marvel characters previously owned by Fox, such as the X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four. Disney cut Fox’s planned Marvel movies from the schedule, including “Gambit,” starring Channing Tatum.
One movie that didn’t get the ax, though, is the “X-Men” spin-off, “The New Mutants.” Instead, it was pushed back for a third time to April 3, 2020. It was originally scheduled for April 2018, then moved to February 2019, and again to August.
The movie, about a group of teenagers struggling to adapt to their mutant powers while trapped in a secret facility and directed by “The Fault in Our Stars” director Josh Boone, has been in limbo and expected reshoots had yet to happen in March, The Hollywood Reporter reported.
READ MORE: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ directors describe the 100-hour workweeks and tremendous pressure of making their $2 billion blockbuster
The movie’s theatrical release had been in doubt, and it could still be in jeopardy. A movie that gets four release dates is usually doomed from the start. Boxoffice.com editorial director Daniel Loría said on Twitter that he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see the movie head to streaming.
If that’s the case, it’s more likely for the movie to debut on Hulu, which Disney now has majority stake in, than the family-friendly Disney Plus. Star Charlie Heaton has described the movie as a “full-fledged horror X-Men movie.” Perhaps reshoots will tame it for a wider audience, but that prospect seems unlikely when Disney already has its own “family-friendly” Marvel projects in development.
Disney has eight release dates set for yet-to-be-announced Marvel Cinematic Universe movies through 2022, and several Marvel TV shows in the works for Disney Plus. At $20 billion worldwide combined over 22 movies, the MCU is the biggest movie franchise of all time, and shows no signs of slowing down. It’s unknown how or when Marvel Studios plans to incorporate the former Fox characters into the MCU, but Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is excited at the prospect.
“The specifics of what it means remains to be seen, but overall it’s wonderful and it feels like these characters have come home,” Feige told Variety. “It will be nice to have what every other [intellectual property] holder that I can think of has, which is access to all their IP.”
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