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Disney Reportedly Ignored ‘Dark Phoenix’ After Fox Merger and Fired Its Marketing Team

The final Fox-backed "X-Men" movie was a massive flop and contributed to Disney's $170 million loss in the second quarter of 2019.

“Dark Phoenix”


After grossing around $65 million at the U.S. box office, “Dark Phoenix” is bound to go down as one of the biggest flops of 2019. Not only did “Dark Phoenix” fail to outgross, in its entire run, the opening weekends of seven previous “X-Men” movies, but the movie’s performance was such a disappointment that Disney CEO Bob Iger credited it as the primary reason the studio lost $170 million in the second quarter of the year. A new report from Variety reveals the box office flops of “Dark Phoenix” and other Fox films (“Stuber,” “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” etc.) acquired by Disney after the $71.3 billion merger has caused Disney to completely retool the upcoming Fox slate.

One of the most revealing tidbits comes from rival studio executives, who told Variety that Disney cut at least $50 million worth from Fox marketing and development. While “Dark Phoenix” did not get support from critics (IndieWire’s senior film critic David Ehlrich wrote the film has no reason to exist in a D review), insiders tell Variety that Disney did not internally support the movie either.

As Variety reports: “Disney largely ignored ‘Dark Phoenix’ after it acquired 20th Century in March, according to sources. The marketing team familiar with the film was laid off, and Disney did not spend as aggressively to promote the release. One insider says that the film’s lone premiere in Los Angeles was done with an eye to controlling costs — a bit of economizing that annoyed the film’s creative team.”

“Dark Phoenix” opened in June to just $32 million and then fell 72.6% in its second weekend with a gross of just $9 million, the biggest second weekend decline in history for a comic book film. Addressing investors earlier this month, Iger called out the lackluster performance of the Fox movies. “The Fox studio performance was well below where it had been and well below where we’d hoped it would be when we made the acquisition,” he said. Additional Fox films set for release through 2020 under Disney include “Ford v. Ferrari,” Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” the Amy Adams thriller “Woman in the Window,” and Brad Pitt’s astronaut drama “Ad Astra.” The latter opens September 20 after a starry world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

IndieWire has reached out to Disney for further comment.

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