By: Brandon T. McClure
Until last week, it wasn’t clear what types of changes would be coming to the film production side of 21st Century Fox. Now that Disney has control of the company and layoffs began to happen, it was assumed that the company would operate relatively unchanged. This assumption was debunked last week when the public learned that Disney has shut down Fox 2000, the production arm of 21st Century Fox that produced films such as Love, Simon and Life of Pi.
Fox 2000 was started about twenty years ago by Elizabeth Gabler and focused mainly on developing book to screen adaptations. Many of them like The Fault in Our Stars were both financially and critically successful. While 20th Century Fox generally dealt with more big budget fair like this years Alita: Battle Angel, and Fox Searchlight dealt with lower budget films like last years The Favourite, Fox 2000 made the increasingly rare mid-budget film like 2016’s The Hidden Figures.
Even though Fox 2000 was making movies with crossover appeal to both men and women, Disney saw the label as being redundant and having too much overlap with other studios in the new Disney family which includes studios like Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and Pixar, to name three. The thinking is that Fox Searchlight and Fox 2000 have an increasing overlap, therefore one had to go.
One could assume that Disney felt that since they have doubled the number of film banners Disney manages with 20th Century Fox (the main studio), and Fox Searchlight (the indie label), there was not a clear place for the Fox 2000 brand. A move like this would have made more sense before 2016 when Disney still utilized its Touchstone label which specialized in the same types of mid budget films that Fox 2000 put out. Most of the best picture academy award nominations that 21st Century Fox accumulated came from either Fox Searchlight or Fox 2000.
Even though it is unclear if Gabler will find a new position in the restructured company or if she’ll move on (word is that Paramount is looking to hire her), Disney is committed to completing the Fox 2000 films currently in production. These films include the dog-centric The Art of Racing in the Rain, starring Kevin Costner, which has a September 27 release date, and the thriller The Woman in the Window, starring Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, which has an October 4th release date. Since these films were being released this year it makes sense that Disney would want to release them.
This is not to say that the films that Fox 2000 has released in the past will be forgotten. It just means that all the films now belong to the 20th Century Fox banner under the Disney umbrella, which means they could easily appear on the streaming service that Disney is launching later this year. After the releases this year, there will be no new Fox 2000 films.
The public can expect more “redundant” companies to be dissolved in the coming weeks, no doubt. Blue Sky, 21st Century Fox’s animation arm now belongs to Disney and it’s unlikely they’ll want to keep it as it’s own, rather they’d fold it into Disney Animation.
Audiences are not hurting for content these days, quite the opposite, but the cinema experience is taking a hit even though many high budget films are profiting studios and then some. The mid-range budget films are being phased out of the Hollywood discussion in favor of higher budget films that bring in billions at the box office. When the public does consume these films, it’s likely on a streaming service like Netflix. It appears a repeat trend is starting to form.
Hollywood studios tend to put all their eggs in one basket. In the mid 20th century, musicals and western films were huge. These had relatively high budgets for the time. The market was there until it wasn’t. It’s fair to say that there are a lot of superhero films right now, but it’s fairer to say that there are a lot of IP dominated films right now. These days a studio would rather go into their own back catalogue of IP rather than find something new. When audiences no longer wanted to see westerns and musicals, there were some major bombs and a lot of money was lost. They didn’t have anything to fall back on. Disney and the other major studios are beginning to make the same mistakes now.
While most of the major studios are comfortable putting out exclusively high budget films, there are studios that are finding success in the low budget films. Studios like A24, Lionsgate and even Blumhouse (even though it is owned by NBC/Universal) all have found great success in lower budget fair. The mid-budget film would have been a good fall back when the age of IP driven content ends.
Many filmmakers are sad to see the production arm go. The Fault in Our Stars screenwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter said “it's crucial that within our industry there’s a home for moderately priced films that are about characters and dialogue-driven. There will always be an audience for these movies when they’re done well. So we’ll miss Fox 2000, not just as screenwriters but as avid moviegoers.”
If you want more, follow Brandon at @BTMcClure or on the Fake Nerd Podcast and Mythellaneous on any podcasting service.