20th Century Fox, the 85-year-old studio with the iconic towering logo lit with spotlights and accompanied by a fanfare of percussion and trumpets, is no more. Almost a year after the groundbreaking Disney acquisition of Fox, the two main movie studios, 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight, have been rebranded. Ditching the Fox name altogether, the two have now been renamed 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures respectively.
Since the “mouse-house” acquired Fox for $71.3 billion in March 2019, changes have quickly been made. The company’s new streaming service Disney+ launched with former Fox content like “The Simpsons” and National Geographic, one of the services main pillars of content along with Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney. While not Disney in name, the streaming juggernaut Hulu is also owned in majority by Disney after the Fox deal and will be a place where less family friendly content will appear. The FX network now belongs to Disney, and in March FX and Hulu will launch a collaboration. With exclusive rights to FX’s back catalog of content and newly announced original series on Hulu, like “Mrs. America” starring Cate Blanchett, Disney has a massive small screen presence to match their big screen success.
The Fox deal was an expensive and enormous purchase of properties. While the renaming of the two main studios is a loss in terms of the cultural and historical significance of brand, it bodes well for their longevity and usefulness to Disney moving forward. The rebranding signals that Disney still has plans for the two studios rather than using them for parts and collecting intellectual properties, like Avatar and X-Men.
The formerly 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight create content that Disney has yet to master, awards films. The Fox film studios each have a best picture Oscar contender this year, with “Ford v. Ferrari” and “Jojo Rabbit” respectively. Disney usually wins animated feature, three of the five Golden Globe nominees this year were Disney, and they get plenty of technical nominations and awards for their Marvel and Star Wars films. The major categories, Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, typically don’t favor Disney content. With 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures, Disney is likely hoping to add award winning films to their growing list of content.
Not all Fox properties will be so lucky, with the recent release of Will Smith and Tom Holland led animated movie “Spies in Disguise,” the animation studio only has one film officially slated for upcoming release. Blue Sky Studios was bought by Fox in 1999 and released their first animated feature, “Ice Age,” in 2002. The upcoming film “Nimona” is slated for early 2022 and since Disney already runs two animation studios, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, it seems unlikely that Blue Sky will stay in operation.
Hollywood is in an age dominated by intellectual properties; all top 10 films at the box office the past three years have been films of an existing IP. The Disney-Fox deal is a power move in which Disney added more content to their growing collection and expanded their box office and television dominance further than before. Disney had a record-breaking year in 2019 with a $13 billion box office haul for the studio. 7 films reached a billion and “Avengers: Endgame" dethroned “Avatar” (which they now own) as the highest grossing film of all time. The company shows no signs of slowing down and 2019 marked the turning point for Disney as their reach grew astoundingly after the merger. The former Fox properties and studios for the most part will live on as new branches in the ever-growing Disney tree.