“Building a robust direct-to-consumer business is our top priority, and we continue to invest in exceptional content and innovative technology to drive our success in this space," Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.
To that end, Disney is readying its own streaming service Disney Plus, which it plans to launch in 2019. This content comes with a hefty price tag — it also requires Disney to forgo traditional sources of revenue. Disney has commissioned a live-action Star Wars spinoff series, "The Mandalorian," that will boast Jon Favreau as the showrunner, and is developing Avengers standalone series based on characters such as the Scarlet Witch and Loki. Disney makes hundreds of millions of dollars licensing its shows and films, but it is pulling that content off of services such as Netflix in order to put it on its own platforms. Details are starting to leak out about the Netflix challenger.
The entertainment powerhouse behind Pixar, Marvel, and the world's most beloved theme parks logged earnings per share of $1.84, a 3% drop from $1.89 in the prior-year quarter. Disney also reported revenue of $15.3 billion, essentially flat with the year-ago period. Walt Disney Studios had a much more magical earnings report than analysts had expected.
The $71.3 billion merger is a transformative one that will have long-term affects on the media landscape. The sale could close as soon as this month. Disney hopes that by adding such Fox brands as FX and Nat Geo to its roster, as well as attractive film and television franchises such as the "X-Men" and "Avatar" it will be well armed against digital upstarts such as Netflix. The earnings were announced as Disney is preparing to absorb much of 21st Century Fox's film and television assets.
The company faced difficult comparisons, because it did not field any Star Wars sequel or spin-off during the holidays for the first time in four years. Wall Street was looking for earnings per share of $1.55 on revenue of $15.18 billion. The better-than-anticipated financial picture is attributable to higher cable and broadcast revenues and the increased popularity of its parks, which off-set declines in Disney's film division. Those results beat estimates. The lack of a Star Wars film also took a bite out of licensing profits.
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For one, the studio never gave the film an official release date, even though it was widely expected to hit theaters within the next two years. As for replacing Gunn, Disney feels no pressure to immediately find a new director, according to sources, and is willing to wait until the right A-list filmmaker comes along. Depending on how long it takes to land the right director, Disney may in fact wind up pushing back the film's original February 2019 start date.
Gunn's comments were nearly a decade old and were recently resurfaced by alt-right agitators, including the blogger Mike Cernovich. The tweets included messages such as, "The best thing about being raped is when you're done being raped and it's like 'whew this feels great, not being raped!'" and "I'm doing a big Hollywood adaptation of The Giving Tree with a happy ending – the tree grows back and gives the kid a blowjob." Others made light of AIDS, the Holocaust, and 9/11.
Disney insiders say the company was not aware of the offensive tweets and was taken aback when they were recirculated.
For one thing, most are under contract and would face legal action if they opted out of a sequel. The studio recognized that "Guardians" cast members such as Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana stopped short of threatening to quit the series, but there is widespread belief that the actors will show up for future installments, regardless of their personal feelings about Gunn. Still, the public endorsement of the director was notable for its vociferous support.
Perhaps with good reason. Warner Bros.' decision to include Depp in its Comic-Con presentation for "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" raised hackles on social media, particularly because Heard took the stage roughly an hour later to promote "Aquaman."
The Gunn firing comes as studios are struggling with how to handle the personal issues of movie stars, given a new "zero tolerance" climate. The sexual harassment reckoning that has toppled media figures such as Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, and more, has made these companies less likely to put up with talent that has been accused of assault, or has made impolitic or offensive comments. For instance, ABC, which is owned by Disney, quickly fired Roseanne Barr last spring after she made racist remarks about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, and Paramount laid off TV chief Amy Powell after she allegedly used racially-charged language in the workplace.
"We were all shocked by [Gunn's] abrupt firing last week and have intentionally waited these ten days to respond in order to think, pray, listen, and discuss," the letter reads. "In that time, we have been encouraged by the outpouring of support from fans and members of the media who wish to see James reinstated as director of Volume 3 as well as discouraged by those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding him."
"That makes me nauseous."” /> "WB brought Johnny Depp out for the Fantastic Beasts panel (as a surprise!!!) immediately proceeding their Aquaman panel, featuring Amber Heard," tweeted Entertainment Weekly correspondent Dana Schwartz.
Spokespeople for Disney and Marvel declined to comment for this article.
This wasn't Gunn's first social media scandal. In 2012, the director apologized for a blog post he wrote in 2011, titled "The 50 Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With." In the it, Gunn speculated that Iron Man could "turn" the lesbian Batwoman into a heterosexual, labeled Gambit a "Cajun fruit," and called Batgirl, who is a teenage mother in the comics, "easy." Facing a backlash, Gunn said he regretted making "poorly worded" statements.
Depp was accused of assaulting his ex-wife Amber Heard. On social media, Disney has been hit for working with Johnny Depp on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Alice in Wonderland" films. It seems unlikely he will going back to work at the studio in this climate. However, there are no sequels to either franchise in development at Disney, nor does Depp have any films in the works at the studio or an overall production deal with the company.
There have been rumors that Marvel regulars like Jon Favreau ("Iron Man"), Taika Waititi ("Thor: Ragnarok"), or the Russo brothers ("Avengers: Infinity War") might be enlisted, but sources say that many of the usual suspects are busy with prior obligations. That means that there is a higher likelihood that Disney will reach outside the Marvel family to find a director with the kind of offbeat sensibility to handle the comic-book franchise. So far, the studio has yet to meet with any Gunn replacements.
But the film and its sequel were massive successes, earning more than $1.6 billion globally. The characters were low profile and the band of interstellar warriors included a gun-tooting raccoon and a tree. Although largely unknown when he took the "Guardians" gig, having made a few cult favorites such as "Slither," Gunn quickly proved to be more than a gun for hire. As both a writer and a director, he was seen as having a key role in nailing down the film's light-hearted tone, giving the standard "heroes on a mission" genre a poppy makeover by including '70s rock favorites on the soundtrack and peppering in lots of jokey asides. When "Guardians" was announced, some questioned its commercial prospects. Replacing Gunn won't be an easy task.
"I don't see Disney re-hiring him," says one person close to the matter. At this point, the letter does not seem likely to save his job. "Those tweets were so horrible and Disney has a different standard then other studios." Gunn's firing was approved by Disney Studios chief Alan Horn, with his boss, company CEO Bob Iger weighing in on the final decision. The involvement of the highest levels of Disney signals that the cast pressure to rethink the Gunn ouster will struggle to gain internal support.
3," Walt Disney Studios is currently not planning on rehiring the filmmaker who it recently fired after a series of offensive tweets surfaced, according to multiple people familiar with the studio's current thinking. Despite a cast letter asking for James Gunn to be reinstated as the director of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. The feeling within both Disney and Marvel is that the dozens of so-called jokes that Gunn made about pedophilia and rape are unacceptable in the #MeToo era and are not in line with Disney's family-friendly image.