That whoosh you just heard? That was the sound of fanboys (and girls) around the world firing up their light sabres in celebration at the news that Disney plans to release three new Star Wars movies after the central nine-film saga ends in December with The Rise of Skywalker.
That sigh you heard? That's the response from the grown-ups who wonder if there will soon be no room at all left on the big screen for anything but big-budget franchise blockbusters.
Disney announced a slate of 63 films on Tuesday (US time) that maps out its major releases until December 2027, when Avatar 5 – the last of the four sequels to the 2009 smash that James Cameron is concurrently filming in New Zealand – is pencilled in.
Among them are eight Marvel movies, the X-Men spin-off The New Mutants, a new Indiana Jones movie, a sequel to Frozen, the fourth Toy Story animation from Pixar, and new entries in the annals of Maleficent and 101 Dalmatians spin-off Cruella.
There are also live-action reworkings of classic Disney animations The Lion King, Aladdin and Mulan, plus Steven Spielberg's reimagining of West Side Story and the first instalment of what Disney will hope is a new franchise for kids and young adults – Artemis Fowl, an adaptation of the first of Eoin Colfer's eight science-fantasy novels about a young criminal mastermind in a world people by faeries and leprechauns.
If this was the first glimpse of the future now that Disney has acquired Fox, there's reason to be a little afraid. Though a handful of the sort of adult-oriented award-friendly films that Fox has released under its Searchlight banner have a place on the line-up, they are massively outnumbered by franchises, sequels and spin-offs. If you care about original stories for grown-ups, move along – there's nothing (much) to see here.
The first Artemis Fowl novel is being filmed. It’s unliklely to be the last. Credit:Puffin
You might argue that's all well and good because the world is full of alternative producers and distributors of movies. And to a degree you'd be right; after all, 63 films across nine years is not all that much (though there will be more announcements, some as soon as August, when Disney hosts its D23 convention for fans in Anaheim). Last year in Australia, for example, something like 700 movies enjoyed some sort of outing on the big screen.
But Disney releases aren't the same as other releases. With their massive marketing campaigns and monopolisation of screens, they suck the oxygen out of the market, leaving competitors to scrap it out for whatever audience titbits remain.
And it's only getting more so. A decade ago, Disney's share of the North American box office was 11.5 per cent. In 2014 it was just under 15 per cent. Last year, Disney accounted for just over one-quarter of the North American market. In the year to date, it has just over a third – and with the Fox share added, the total is now hovering around the 40 per cent mark.
Since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and relaunched the Star Wars franchise three years later, it has typically had the opening weekend to itself, such is the fear of rival distributors about its likely dominance of the box office.
The latest Marvel film, Avengers: Endgame, demonstrated just how real that dominance has become. In its first weekend the movie accounted for almost 90 per cent of all box office in North America. After two weeks on release, it has taken more than $US2.2 billion ($3.1 billion) globally, including more than $51 million in Australia. It is already the second-highest grossing film ever (behind Avatar), and likely to take first spot within a matter of weeks.
Avengers: Endgame has dominated box office, and cinema screens, globally.Credit:Marvel Studios
It's not just the dollars that are hoovered up, though – it's the screens, too. In Australia Endgame opened on 1112 screens – almost half of all available screens in the country. At Hoyts Melbourne Central on Wednesday, you could see Endgame at any one of 19 sessions; the three other films screening had six sessions between them. At George Street in Sydney it was 20 sessions for Endgame and 11 for the six other films showing.
There's nothing wrong with Marvel movies or Star Wars movies or Pixar animations per se. It's not just fanboys (and girls) who enjoy them – and who will have the chance to continue to enjoy many more of them until 2027 at the very least.
But a world in which it is increasingly difficult to see anything but a Marvel or a Star Wars or a Pixar movie on the big screen? There’s something very wrong with that.
Disney’s slate (so far)
2019 (all dates are for US release)
May 10 Tolkien (Fox Searchlight)
May 24 Aladdin (Disney)
June 7 Dark Phoenix (Fox)
June 21 Toy Story 4 (Pixar)
July 12 Stuber (Fox)
July 19 The Lion King (Disney)
August 9 The Art of Racing in the Rain (Fox)
August 23 Ready or Not (Fox Searchlight)
September 20 Ad Astra (Fox)
October 4 The Woman in the Window (Fox)
October 18 Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Disney)
November 15 Ford v. Ferrari (Fox)
November 22 Frozen II (Disney)
December 20 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Lucasfilm)
December 25 Spies in Disguise (Fox)
January 10 Underwater (Fox)
February 14 Untitled Kingsman (Fox)
February 21 Call of the Wild (Fox)
June 3 Onward (Disney)
March 27 Mulan (Disney)
April 3 The New Mutants (Fox)
May 1 Untitled Marvel (Marvel)
May 29 Artemis Fowl (Disney)
June 19 Untitled Pixar animation (Pixar)
July 3 Free Guy (Fox)
July 17 Bob's Burgers (Fox)
July 24 Jungle Cruise (Disney)
August 14 The One and Only Ivan (Disney)
October 9 Death on the Nile (Fox)
November 6 Untitled Marvel (Marvel)
November 6 Ron’s Gone Wrong (Fox)
November 25 Untitled animation (Disney)
December 18 West Side Story (Fox)
December 23 Cruella (Disney)
February 12 Untitled Marvel (Marvel)
March 5 Nimona (Fox)
March 12 Untitled live action (Disney)
May 7 Untitled Marvel (Marvel)
May 28 Untitled live action (Disney)
June 18 Untitled Pixar animation (Pixar)
July 9 Untitled Indiana Jones (Disney)
July 30 Untitled live action (Disney)
October 8 Untitled live action (Disney)
November 5 Untitled Marvel (Marvel)
November 24 Untitled animation (Disney)
December 17 Avatar 2 (Fox)
February 18 Untitled Marvel (Marvel)
March 18 Untitled Pixar animation (Pixar)
May 6 Untitled Marvel (Marvel)
May 27 Untitled live action (Disney)
June 17 Untitled Pixar animation (Pixar)
July 8 Untitled live action (Disney)
July 29 Untitled Marvel (Marvel)
October 7 Untitled live action (Disney)
November 4 Untitled live action (Disney)
November 23 Untitled animation (Disney)
December 16 Untitled Star Wars (Lucasfilm)
February 17, 2023 Untitled live action (Disney)
December 22, 2023 Avatar 3 (Fox)
December 20, 2024 Untitled Star Wars (Lucasfilm)
December 19, 2025 Avatar 4 (Fox)
December 18, 2026 Untitled Star Wars (Lucasfilm)
December 17, 2027 Avatar 5 (Fox)
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