OP: Disney and Fox merger is dangerous for the movie making industry

16 April 2019

Zachary Engelman

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    Students today have access to a massive array of choices when it comes to watching movies. The list of streaming platforms is always growing, and the competition raises the stakes for these studios to release content that will keep its users subscribed.

    The movie industry in America thrives on competition. Studios need to find new creative ideas for movies in order to compete for record box office numbers. But lately, we have seen a few major shifts in the way movies are made.

    In some ways, competition is stronger than ever with streaming services exploding into the movie-making world. In the Academy Awards this year, Netflix tied with Disney and Fox for most awards of the night. With award-winning movies available on release at home, studio’s are looking for ways to up their game. Unfortunately, the steps they are taking to reduce the competition might be dangerous for the industry.

    Rumors of a rule change at the Academy Awards have been circling. Allegedly, they have been considering removing streaming platforms from the runnings for the awards.

    This rumor prompted the U.S. justice department to send them a letter warning that this exclusion could violate American antitrust laws.

    This kind of decision could wound the industry by stifling the competitive drive of content creators. But this decision is minor compared to the latest news from Disney and Fox.

    The Walt Disney company officially acquired 21st Century Fox in a historic merger late last month. This massive media merger unites some of the most popular movie franchises under one, oversized banner.

    At first glance, this merger looks enticing to American media consumers. For one, all of the ‘Marvel’ characters are now owned by one parent company, allowing for previously unimaginable combinations for these blockbuster hits. But these judgments might be short-sighted.

    In the years before this merger, Fox knew that they had to do things differently than Disney if they wanted any chance of standing out. Movies like “Logan” and “Deadpool” showed that Fox had an edge when it came to making a darker kind of superhero movie.

    These movies almost functioned as anti-superhero movies and added a refreshing change of pace from the unending copy and paste format of Disney Marvel movie remakes.

    Disney, on the other hand, has shown a tendency to produce movies that appeal to the largest audience possible. They use milder violence and language and avoid dark themes so that families will feel more welcome and drive up those box office numbers. While there is nothing wrong with this idea, in principle, pulling Fox under this umbrella might hurt the diversity of modern film releases.

    This tendency to appeal to the lowest common denominator should also trouble American audiences because American moviegoers are not the largest movie seeking group anymore. China, after relaxing their media censorship, has become the highest paying audience in the movie world.

    As a result, Disney has started designing movies that meet the bare minimum story and dialogue requirements for domestic markets, while pandering the rest of the movie to appeal to the Chinese moviegoer.

    Interesting dialogue and a riveting plot aren’t as important when the movie is going to end up being translated for the majority of its audience. This means more of the same from Disney. Cookie cutter plots and movie re-releases.

    The proof is in the pudding. Disney’s current release schedule for 2019 is dominated by remakes and sequels. It features movies like the live-action remake of the Disney classic Aladdin and yet another Star Wars movie. Film-buffs have cause for concern.