Disneyfication of movies reduces artistic quality


Alex Holmes

Have you seen “Avengers: Infinity War”? If not, you’ve at least heard people talking about it–specifically asking to avoid spoilers. What about “First Reformed”? Probably not. The reason I can guess you’ve probably seen “Avengers,” but not “First Reformed,” is because “Infinity War” earned $250 million its opening weekend in North America. “First Reformed?” Under $100 thousand.

There is one major difference between the first film and the second: the former was owned by the Walt Disney Company, the latter was not. With their deep cache of popular characters, their strategic acquisition of 21st Century Fox, and the unveiling of a new streaming service, Disney will tighten their grasp on the box office, leading to movie theaters full of sequels, reboots, and spin-offs, which will be bland, uninspired, and unoriginal.

Disney is already the most profitable studio in Hollywood. Over the last decade or so, Disney expanded outside of their traditional animation arena. Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. The first three Star Wars films released by Disney have made $4.2 billion as of January 1, according to Box Office Mojo. Disney bought Pixar in 2006, and their 2010 film “Toy Story 3,” is the second all-time highest grossing animated film, behind Disney’s own “Frozen.”

However, ticket sales aren’t as reliable as they once were. CinemaBlend reports that in 1930, 65 percent of the American population went to the theater weekly. That number is now a mere three percent. Whereas studios used to release dozens of films a year and take risks with edgier films, nowadays, the big studios typically release only five or six “tentpole” films each year. These are your Star Wars, Marvel, DC, etc. films. The only way forward is to expand outside of the theaters.

On June 27, the Department of Justice approved Disney’s deal to buy 21st Century Fox for $71 billion in cash and stock. Fox not only owns a number of commercially viable properties like the X-Men, Alien, and Die Hard series, but they also have several TV shows. Disney will get several Fox TV networks, responsible for such shows as “Atlanta,” “American Horror Story,” “The Simpsons,” and “Empire.” Analysts predict that after the merger has been completed, Disney, with the new acquisitions from Fox, will own about 40 percent of the worldwide box office. This amount of control over one medium can only lead to mediocrity in the movies. With one company creating almost half of what we watch, creativity and new ideas will be lacking.  

To top it off, Disney is now creating its own streaming platform where all of their animated, Marvel, and Star Wars content will be found. This content will be exclusive to the Disney service, which is said to launch sometime next spring.

People no longer go to the theater as often as they once did—it has been replaced by streaming services. And since Disney owns the movies and their distribution venues, they own what you watch, when you watch it, and where you watch it.

Look, I like Marvel and Star Wars. I watch all of those movies, usually when they come out in theaters. I’m not saying they’re awful movies, or that people shouldn’t watch them. But we have to remember that Disney is first and foremost a business. They want your money. They design their films to have mass appeal, and sometimes that means sacrificing art for entertainment.  

The best movies are the ones that are different, and those movies are not found at Disney. The best way to combat Disney domination is to vote with your wallet. I know going to movies in the theater is expensive, but most of us go to at least five or six movies a year, and they’re usually Disney movies. I’m not asking you to not go to those. Maybe for every one, or even two, blockbusters you see, go to an artsy, independent film. There are plenty of great movies out there that are better than Marvel. Sure, they don’t have as much action, as many stars, or as many special effects, but they have more emotional power to move us than typical Marvel fare.

There are so many lower budget movies that are worth a watch. This year alone, we’ve seen movies like “Eighth Grade,” “Tully,” “First Reformed,” and “Blackkklansmen.” I can guarantee that there is something out there for everyone. Just give some low-budget movie a chance, and maybe, just maybe, Disney and other studios will see that great films can make money, too, and they might take a few more risks.