The Walt Disney Company is now staring down the barrel of an almost $900 million loss for its cinematic content, following more movies being added to its series of flops at the box office. The last eight studio releases put out by the business have not performed to expectations.
Meanwhile, its subsidiary Lucasfilm only had three franchises worth retaining post-acquisition. Of those, two (Indiana Jones and Willow) have been killed stone dead, and the third (Star Wars) remains on life support. Another acquisition, Fox, passed on the now highly profitable Sound Of Freedom on conscientious grounds and they have had to watch as it powered to a +$100 million box office take on a $14 million budget.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 and the live-action version of The Little Mermaid made a return, but are well short of the required level. Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania joins Strange World and Lightyear on the complete failure list. The Little Mermaid had a budget of $250 million, while Lightyear cost $200 million. Lightyear scored $226.7 million worldwide. Compare and contrast this to The Incredibles 2 in 2018 which cost the same, but pulled in $1.2 billion worldwide. It is clear something has gone very, very wrong.
Many recent movies excluded themselves from release in several key Middle Eastern and Asian countries because of their depictions of same-sex relationships. While that had an impact on global box office performance, the damage is being done at home as Middle America abandons the company as being out of step with their values. This comes even as senior Disney executives were recorded discussing their plans to push their personal politics onto their products.
Disney’s cinematic arm is now essentially a zombie company, kept alive by other areas of the business such as streaming, theme parks, and ESPN.
It is there that the true scale of the issues facing Disney also resides, as the streaming model is faltering as growth slows and losses mount against huge production budgets of marquee shows. Disney no longer licenses content, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to third-party platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. It keeps it all for its own Disney+ platform. This means they are forfeiting billions of dollars in potential revenue from outside sources.
Meanwhile, the theme parks are reportedly empty this summer even as competitors such as Universal have seen visitor numbers grow. This is due to Disney pricing being out of step with family budgets under pressure from financial challenges worldwide.
The inability to effectively use a Disney theme park without a military-grade plan involving fast passes and dining packages means potential customers simply can’t be bothered, especially at that price.
In 2021, it stopped greeting park visitors as “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” as it rushed headlong to satisfy the gender-critical fashion. It has also gone on to slap racism warnings on many of its best-loved films, including Dumbo for the raucous black crows, and Lady And The Tramp for the sinister Siamese cats. It replaced Minnie’s polka dot dress with a trouser suit, and considered the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty as a negative gender stereotype.
Even in these inflationary times, Disney production budgets are considered excessively bloated. Bob Iger needs to slash $5.5 billion of the cost base, and counting, in order for the company to stand a chance of pulling out of its current death spiral.
It is trite and a cliche to say “Get Woke, Go Broke”, but Disney’s current activity is a textbook example of this maxim that will be studied for an MBA as a business failure alongside New Coke and DeLorean.
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