Disney’s Record $10B Global Box Office Suggests Rosy Home Entertainment Future

Walt Disney Studios set a record $10 billion in worldwide box office ticket sales through Dec. 8 with current theatrical hit Frozen II — a notable milestone achieved without a “Star Wars” movie or breakout 20th Century Fox title.

Disney in July broke its previous $7.6 billion box office haul. Fox Studios’ theatrical titles topped $2 billion at the box office.

For home entertainment, Disney’s fiscal largess is a gift that keeps on giving despite ongoing consumer migration toward over-the-top video distribution.

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Disney titles have historically performed well in sales of DVD and Blu-ray Disc, and more recently in digital sellthrough as well. Despite launching a branded SVOD platform featuring original movies, Disney will continue to stream new releases after their retail window.

And that’s a no brainer when looking at recent movie sales.

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Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame is the top-selling disc in 2019, according to VideoScan. Captain Marvel, Bohemian Rhapsody (Fox), Toy Story 4 and Aladdin all rank among the top 10 this year.

It’s a trend Disney Home Entertainment has driven the past four years.

In 2016, Disney led all studios at retail disc sales with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, supported by Pixar’s Finding Dory, Zootopia and Captain America: Civil War.

The next year Disney again topped retail disc sales with Moana and Beauty and the Beast.

In 2018, Disney home entertainment outdid itself, spearheaded by Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Coco and Thor: Ragnarok.

Last November, CEO Bob Iger Iger gave a shout out to home entertainment — his first in years — which he said continued to deliver strong retail results in the face of OTT.  At the time Iger suggested there was ongoing internal strategy about putting theatrical content into retail channels sooner.

“The home video window continues to be quite important to us,” he said. “You’ll likely see us protect that as well, although there’s going to be discussion around whether there’s an opportunity to move product into that window maybe a little sooner.”

To date, Disney’s 90-day theatrical window remains largely intact.

 

 

 

Bob Iger: ‘If Steve (Jobs) Were Alive,’ (Disney, Apple) Would be Combined Companies

Pending retirement and 20/20 hindsight can do wonders for the printed page.

With his departure from The Walt Disney Co. set for 2021, CEO Bob Iger has already authored a memoir on his long-running stint heading the world famous brand.

The book, “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company,” is available everywhere Sept. 23, including Amazon.

In excerpts disclosed on Vanity Fair’s website, Iger delves into his relationship with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and how he was stunned to find out 10 minutes before announcing Disney’s $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar in 2006 that Jobs’ cancer had returned.

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Iger suggests that had Jobs lived (he died in 2011), he believes — surprisingly — that the two would have facilitated a merger of sorts between Disney and Apple.

It’s an interesting revelation, if not unrealistic considering who Jobs was.

The mercurial executive was a majority shareholder of Pixar and a member of Disney’s board. He was also notoriously self-centered in his vision for Apple and the world revolving around it — not the other way around.

While fighting a return of terminal cancer (despite being one of the richest people on Earth) would cloud anyone’s judgment, when it comes to streaming video and content IP, Jobs’ insolence toward the emerging distribution model and owning content was glaring.

Despite pioneering music, TV show and movie distribution through iTunes, Jobs infamously dismissed Apple TV as a “little hobby,” to be re-evaluated in the distant future.

That attitude contributed to Apple (with more than $200 billion in cash) sitting on the sidelines as Iger-led Disney swooped in to buy Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm (Star Wars) — the latter two properties for a combined $8 billion.

Disney has made more than $18 billion on its Marvel investment. The first four Star Wars movies produced by Disney-owned Lucasfilm have already paid for that acquisition. And Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is the fourth film from that studio to top $1 billion at the global box office.

It seems doubtful that had Jobs lived, Apple would have jumped into content ownership. Jobs’ successor Tim Cook has only now decided to push Apple TV into the SVOD ecosystem.

Indeed, Iger, in his book, said Jobs had grown frustrated dealing with the Disney culture and former CEO Michael Eisner.

“Among his many frustrations was a feeling that it was often too difficult to get anything done with Disney,” Iger wrote.

Yet, today Apple has ratcheted up original content, spending Netflix-like billions on programming featuring ‘A’-list talent such as Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

The move has generated headlines but comes as Disney, AT&T/WarnerMedia, Comcast and Viacom all bow separate and competing over-the-top video platforms.

Instead of being an innovator as it was with the PC, iTunes, smart phones and tablets, Apple is chasing the competition, a reality noted earlier this year by Netflix’s Ted Sarandos.

“We’ve been competing with 500 channels of cable and penetrated nearly every household in the world for a long time,” Sarandos told the media in March. “So, it’s the same stable of competitors [Apple, Disney, AT&T, Viacom]; just very late to the game.”

 

Skydance Media Names Former Pixar CCO John Lasseter Head of Animation

In a controversial move, former Pixar Animation Studios chief creative officer John Lasseter has been named head of Skydance Animation.

Lasseter, who abruptly resigned from The Walt Disney Co. in 2017 following allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior, will report to David Ellison, CEO, Skydance Media, in Santa Monica beginning later this month.

“We did not enter into this decision lightly,” Ellison said in a statement. “John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

Ellison said Lasseter is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated.

“He was responsible for leading animation into the digital age, while telling incomparable stories that continue to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe,” Ellison said.

Indeed, Lasseter’s signature animation style to Pixar’s films grossing more than $11 billion in global box-office receipts. Lasseter was the executive producer of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Academy Award-winning feature Frozen (2013), which also won an Academy Award for best original song (Let It Go). The film, which crossed the $1 billion mark in March 2014, is the number one animated feature of all time.

Lasseter made his directorial debut in 1995 with Toy Story, the world’s first feature-length computer-animated film, for which he received a Special Achievement Academy Award recognizing his inspired leadership of the filmmaking team. He and the rest of Toy Story’s screenwriting team earned an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay, marking the first time an animated feature had ever been recognized in that category.

Lasseter also directed A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011). Lasseter executive produced all Pixar features since Monsters, Inc. (2001), including the studio’s eight Academy Award-winners Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), WALL•E (2008), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), Brave (2012), and Inside Out (2015), as well as films The Good Dinosaur (2015), Finding Dory (2016), Cars 3 (2017), Coco (2017) and Incredibles 2 (2018).

Lasseter said he was grateful to David and the Skydance team for the opportunity and acknowledged being entrusted with an “enormous” responsibility.

“I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for,” Lasseter said. “It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader.”

In his new role, Lasseter will be responsible for setting the overall strategy and creative direction for Skydance Animation. He will drive the division’s artistic growth, overseeing production and operations, to ensure a robust slate of animated entertainment across all media.

Established in 2017, Skydance Animation has embarked on a multi-year partnership with Ilion Animation Studios, a dedicated CGI feature animation studio based in Madrid, to develop and produce a slate of high-end animated feature films and television series.

Its first two animated feature-length films have been announced: Luck, directed by Alessandro Carloni and written by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger and an Untitled Action Fantasy, directed by Vicky Jenson and written by Linda Woolverton.