Disney’s recent movie flops have been blamed on an over-reliance on tired franchises like Indiana Jones, too many superhero movies and bloated budgets for the studio’s blockbusters.
Experts say the recent box office successes of both Barbie and Oppenheimer have made Disney’s obsession with sequels look particularly stale.
The most notable fiasco has been Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. It is the fifth and final installment of the adventure series starring Harrison Ford, 81.
Dial of Destiny barely surpassed its $295 million budget by around $70 million after critics slated it for being a lazy ‘counterfeit’ version of the once-iconic character featuring fake-looking CGI and woke pontificating courtesy of a new sidekick played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Other standout failures so far this year include Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and The Little Mermaid. The latter made a respectable $542 million globally, but big Disney hits can easily break the $1 billion mark, with critics suggesting viewers have tired of live action remakes of the studio’s classic 1980s and 1990s cartoons.
Embattled CEO Bob Iger admitted in Disney’s third-quarter financial results call on Wednesday that he was ‘personally committed’ to turning around the box office bombs – which was likely motivated by the summer smash hits Barbie and Oppenheimer recently rolled out by rivals Warner Bros and Universal respectively.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has scraped together just $369 million in the box office despite costing Disney almost $300 million to produce
Disney’s insistence to continue remaking old classics, most recently The Little Mermaid, has struggled to pull audiences back
Disney has also been embroiled in a series of woke controversies over LGBT issues in its children’s TV shows and movies.
But most critics agreed that Toy Story spinoff Lightyear, which featured a lesbian astronaut, failed simply because its plot was boring.
It is no secret that the pandemic was a disaster for the movie industry, sending several cinema chains into bankruptcy while studios struggled on streaming services.
There have been signs of life in recent times, however, with Barbie becoming the second film this year – alongside the Super Mario Bros. Movie – to surpass the billion-dollar mark, which it managed after just 17 days.
But while other notable hits including last year’s Avatar: The Way of the Water have made rival companies a fortune, Disney’s duds have done the opposite.
After Indiana Jones: The Dial of Destiny only scraped $369 million in the box office, Mark Young, an expert from the School of Accounting at the University of Southern California (USC), said the problem was even worse than it seems.
‘Remember that of the $369 million, the studio will only garner about 60 percent of that amount or $180 million,’ he told Newsweek.
Disney CEO Bob Iger pledged during a key financial call this week that he was ‘personally committed’ to ending his company’s run of blockbuster fiascos
Critics slated 81-year-old Harrison Ford’s latest – and last- attempt at Indiana Jones, with one saying he has become a cheap ‘counterfeit’ version of the once-iconic character
‘Studios need to get ahead of the curve and deliver something very new,’ he added, noting that while examples like the Avengers franchise has seen huge successes, ‘things have now come to a head.’
This was agreed with by film producer and UCLA lecturer Tom Nunan, who said Disney has lent into an ‘over reliance on the familiar’ as it continues to produce endless spinoffs on its streaming service Disney+.
‘When we see Barbie from Warner Bros Studio and Oppenheimer from Universal performing so well, the message seems clear: ‘make original, bracingly fresh films and the audience will show up”, he said.
After Antman’s latest flop despite a spirited marketing campaign behind it likely costing the studio well into the millions, he said audiences are now suffering ‘superhero fatigue because these movies tend to be highly formulaic.’
‘By most measures, the bets they took were considered reliable ones and anyone in their position would’ve likely done the same. Disney’s efforts have been substantial, upscale, and professional—just uninspiring and not as groundbreaking as what’s called for these days.’
Disney has rolled out countless sequels in recent years, including April’s Guardians of the Galaxy 3, leading critics to say the studio has leaned on an ‘over-reliance on the familiar’
Elemental became Pixar’s worst release in 28 years after it opened with just $30 million in May
Harrison Ford is pictured starring in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984, when he was still in his early 40s. The 81 year-old is pictured in fifth installment The Dial of Destiny right, with many critics saying the character should not have been revived
Diego Luna is pictured in Rogue One: A Star Wars story. It is one of countless big buster movies churned out by Disney, with some Star Wars fans complaining that the franchise has been used as a cash cow and wrung dry
When it was at the height of its popularity through the 2000s and early 2010s, Disney bought up several rival studios that became effective cash cows for the business.
This included Marvel, which was used to launch the Avengers franchise, and Lucasfilm, which allowed Disney to capitalize on the Star Wars universe to produce a slate of new releases.
But many Star Wars fans say too many movies and spin-offs have been produced. They feel the iconic franchise has been used as a cash cow, and milked dry.
The parent company also purchased Pixar in 2006, which built Disney’s reputation for family favorites through animated hits including Ratatouille, Up and Toy Story.
Disney CEO Bob Iger admitted this week he is ‘disappointed’ with the recent flops
However, Disney’s flatlining releases have been evident in its children’s movies too – with the recent launch in May becoming Pixar’s least successful launch in 28 years with just a $30 million opening in the US.
According to Forbes, the company’s struggles have in total lost Disney at least $1 billion – a freefall that was addressed by Iger as he spoke of Disney’s poor third-quarter returns on Wednesday.
‘The studio has had a tremendous run over the past decade, perhaps the greatest run that any studio has ever had, with multiple billion dollar hits… that said, the performance of some of our recent films has definitely been disappointing and we don’t take that lightly,’ he said.
‘As you’d expect, we’re very focused on improving the quality and the performance of the films that we’ve got coming up.
‘It’s something that I’m working closely with the studio on. I’m personally committed to spending more time and attention on that as well.’
While Disney’s big blockbuster of the summer, a tired Indiana Jones remake, was a dud, the same can’t be said of Christopher Nolan’s biopic Oppenheimer
Before the ‘Barbenheimer’ phenomenon, there had never been an opening weekend with one film grossing more than $100 million, Barbie, and a second making more than $50 million, Oppenheimer
Previously, Avengers: Endgame’s $402 million in April 2019 held the box office record, followed by Avengers: Infinity Wars’ $314.8 million in April 2018 and Star Wars: Force Awakens’ $313.2 million in December 2015.
While Disney’s big blockbuster hope, a tired Indiana Jones remake, was a dud, the same can’t be said of two rival movies that have even been credited with ‘saving cinema’.
After what seems like several years without a new iconic box office hit, Christopher Nolan’s biopic Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s long-awaited Barbie smashed records.
The two films spawned the internet phenomenon ‘Barbenheimer’, where crowds flocked to watch both movies despite the Nolan’s near-three-hour runtime.
Their opening weekend combined for over $311 million domestically, which was the biggest haul for cinemas since 2019.
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