- Fox’s film business suffered a $US170 million quarterly operating loss due largely to the box-office failure of “Dark Phoenix,” Disney said during its third quarter earnings call on Tuesday.
- But the “X-Men” franchise can rebound under Disney, and the best testament to this is what Marvel Studios did with Spider-Man.
- The elephant in the room is Deadpool, whose movies have been massive successes but are too mature for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s brand.
- It remains to be seen what Marvel Studios is planning for the X-Men and Deadpool, but the franchises are in safe hands.
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It was clear “Dark Phoenix” was a major box-office flop, but the scope of its failure has now been revealed to the world.
Disney said during its third quarter earnings call on Tuesday that Fox’s film business suffered a $US170 million operating loss, thanks largely to the box-office failure of “Dark Phoenix.” The movie cost $US200 million to produce (not counting marketing), and made $US253 million worldwide. This marked the first full quarter for Disney since its acquisition of Fox was finalised in March, and “Dark Phoenix” was the final “X-Men” movie with Fox’s fingerprints all over it.
It’s a devastating ending to Fox’s former flagship franchise. But it has a chance to bounce back under Disney.
Just last month, Marvel Studios unveiled its grand plan for the next two years of its theatrically released movies and straight-to-Disney-Plus TV shows, which it called “Phase 4.” Characters previously owned by Fox – like the X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four – weren’t part of the presentation, but they still loomed over it.
“Whatever we do will be quite different than what’s been done before,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said of the X-Men.
There’s clearly something for fans to look forward to, we just don’t know what it will look like or when it will arrive. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s track record so far is encouraging. Perhaps the best testament to what Marvel could do with the X-Men lies in its take on Spider-Man, whose big-screen ambitions went through similar headaches as the X-Men before making his MCU debut.
Sony, which retains distribution rights and creative control over the character, attempted its own Spider-Man film universe with the “Amazing Spider-Man” movies. But after 2014’s “Amazing Spider-Man 2” failed to excite audiences in the way Sony hoped, those plans were scrapped, and a deal was struck with Marvel Studios for the character to appear in the MCU. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” grossed $US880 million worldwide, and its sequel, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” has made over $US1 billion globally since coming to theatres last month.
There’s just still one big elephant in the room: Deadpool.
The mutant mercenary played by Ryan Reynolds has reeled in a combined $US1.6 billion worldwide over two movies: “Deadpool” in 2016 and “Deadpool 2” in 2018. An “X-Force” spin-off movie directed by “Cabin in the Woods” director Drew Goddard was in the works, but appears to be in limbo since the Disney-Fox merger.
The good news is that Disney CEO Bob Iger has expressed an openness to R-rated movies (like “Deadpool”) after the Fox merger as long as they are branded accordingly. But that could mean we won’t see Deadpool as a major player in the MCU.
Considering how successful the “Deadpool” movies have been, it wouldn’t be in the franchise’s interest to lighten them for a broader audience. And it seems unlikely that a MCU movie, which has a clear brand that does cater to a wide audience, would be R-rated.
The Netflix Marvel TV series, such as “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage,” were at one time loosely associated with the MCU, but featured more mature content. Those shows were all canceled, and Marvel Studios has basically eliminated any connection to them by hiring actor Mahershala Ali (who costarred in “Luke Cage”) to play the vampire hunter Blade. Feige knows the franchise’s brand, and it’s not mature content.
No matter what happens, though, Feige is in control of Fox’s Marvel characters, and the X-Men and Deadpool are in safe hands.