The release of James Mangold’s well-reviewed racecar drama “Ford v Ferrari” comes at a critical time in the era of the Disney-Fox merger. Since the Mouse House closed the deal on the Fox acquisition in March, nearly every 20th Century Fox release under Disney has underperformed at the U.S. box office. Disney CEO Bob Iger said in August the company lost $170 million in one quarter because of box office bombs like “Dark Phoenix,” the X-Men movie which only grossed $65 million total (that’s less than what the majority of “X-Men” films made on their opening weekends). Other Fox titles like “Stuber” ($22 million), “The Art of Racing in the Rain” ($26 million), and “Ad Astra” ($50 million) also fizzled.
During an interview at Variety’s Business Managers Breakfast this week, Walt Disney Studios’ chief creative officer and co-chairman Alan Horn spoke about Disney’s disappointment with the first wave of Fox theatrical releases. Horn was honest about the studio’s feelings, but he also pointed out the movie business is a rough space and suggested the initial Fox failures don’t spell doom for the future of more Fox titles.
“Of course it was disappointing,” Horn said. “There’s a good old saying: ‘The crow doesn’t taste very good but it is nutrition.’ Everyone learns from failure. I certainly experienced failure in my career. We were disappointed at the results of those [Fox] films. We didn’t know anything about them, we didn’t see them. Before the acquisition, we were not allowed to see them because of the so-called gun jumping rules. We are not allowed to interact with them, give them advice, tell them what to do or what not to do. We were completely hands off, it was up to them.”
Horn added, “But it’s the movie business. I don’t want to be critical. Some of these pictures, I enjoyed them. I liked them. ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain,’ I enjoyed the movie. It’s just rough out there. It’s competitive. It’s more challenging than ever before. There are good films that will lose money and there are films that are not so good that will make money. Who knows.”
Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari” is opening in theaters nationwide this weekend and is the next Fox test for Walt Disney Studios. The movie has earned largely positive reviews and has strong box office appeal thanks to leading actors Christian Bale and Matt Damon. Initial interest could be prolonged if the film manages to break into the Oscar race.
Disney’s Alan Horn talks about the acquisition of 21st Century Fox and the string of box office flops that the Disney inherited as a result: “Of course we were disappointed with the results” of films such as “The Art of Racing in the Rain” and “Stuber” https://t.co/5U1FaP9az8 pic.twitter.com/go5LDpYemQ
— Variety (@Variety) November 13, 2019