Disney To Debut Rest Of 2021 Films In Cinemas First

 In this file photo the Walt Disney Studios logo is projected onscreen during the CinemaCon Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Special presentation at the Colosseum Caesars Palace on April 3, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

Disney announced Friday that all of its films slated for release by the end of the year will be exclusively screened in cinemas first, bringing relief to theaters anxious to reconnect with audiences after the coronavirus pandemic devastated their industry.

The animated film “Encanto” will be released on the big screen on November 24 and will not appear on Disney’s on-demand video platform until December 24, the company said in a statement.

Other planned projects, including “The Last Duel” by Ridley Scott, “Eternals” by Marvel Studios, and “West Side Story” by Steven Spielberg, will be screened in theaters for at least 45 days before they are released elsewhere.

READ ALSO: US Honours 9/11 Dead On 20th Anniversary Of Attacks

The decision was eagerly awaited by traditional cinemas after the entertainment giant recently chose to release a series of big productions such as “Black Widow”, “Jungle Cruise” and “Cruella” on its Disney+ platform, diverting part of their revenue.

“Black Widow” actor Scarlett Johansson has sued Disney, accusing the company of breach of contract and costing her millions of dollars in box office revenue after it released the film on its video platform.

Two years ago, Disney was producing content for both theaters and television channels, but it now has direct access to its audience via streaming, a trend accelerated by the pandemic.

In mid-August, Disney boss Bob Chapek said he favored “flexibility” and the ability to “follow the consumer wherever he goes”.

During a presentation of the company’s financial results, he said “when theaters reopened, there was immense reluctance from the public to return”.

Warner Bros. studios has also been heavily criticised for its decision to release all of its new movies for the rest of the year on its HBO Max platform.

AFP

Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over ‘Black Widow’ Streaming Release

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 09, 2020 US actress Scarlett Johansson arrives for the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

 

Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney over its decision to release superhero movie “Black Widow” on streaming at the same time as in theaters, alleging a breach of contract which cost the star millions of dollars.

Johansson, one of Hollywood’s biggest and top-paid stars, was entitled to a percentage of box office receipts from the much-anticipated Marvel film, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday at Los Angeles Superior Court.

The film was originally due for a big-screen release last year, but was delayed multiple times due to the Covid-19 pandemic and was eventually released this month simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+.

Box office analysts have cited the film’s streaming debut as a major factor in a lackluster — by Marvel film standards — release for a film that has grossed just over $150 million in domestic theaters in three weeks.

“It’s no secret that Disney is releasing films like Black Widow directly onto Disney+ to increase subscribers and thereby boost the company’s stock price — and that it’s hiding behind Covid-19 as a pretext to do so,” said Johansson’s attorney John Berlinski in a statement to AFP.

“This will surely not be the last case where Hollywood talent stands up to Disney and makes it clear that, whatever the company may pretend, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts,” he added.

A spokesperson for Disney — which owns superhero movie powerhouse Marvel Studios — dismissed the lawsuit, telling AFP in a statement that Disney had not breached any contract and that “there is no merit whatsoever to this filing.”

“The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.

– ‘Keep the revenues’ –
Like many Hollywood studios, Disney is increasingly prioritizing streaming as a source of future revenue — a process accelerated by the closure of movie theaters upon the arrival of the pandemic in spring 2020.

Following the film’s opening weekend, Disney issued a press release claiming “Black Widow” had earned “over $60M” on Disney+ alone, where it was available to subscribers at an additional $30 cost.

Johansson’s lawsuit says that to “protect her financial interests, Ms. Johansson extracted a promise from Marvel that the release of the Picture would be a ‘theatrical release,'” which she understood to mean it would not appear on streaming until a traditional “window” of time had elapsed.

But “Disney wanted to lure the Picture’s audience away from movie theatres and towards its owned streaming service, where it could keep the revenues for itself while simultaneously growing the Disney+ subscriber base, a proven way to boost Disney’s stock price,” it alleges.

“Disney wanted to substantially devalue Ms. Johansson’s agreement and thereby enrich itself,” it adds.

The Disney spokesperson said the company “has fully complied with Ms. Johansson’s contract” and that the Disney+ streaming release “has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”

The issue of compensation linked to box office receipts is a growing concern in streaming-focused Hollywood, where such deals for top A-listers are common.

Rival studio Warner Bros was slammed last year for a similar decision to release all of its 2021 movies simultaneously in theaters and on its HBO Max platform.

Warner renegotiated many of its deals with stars and filmmakers, reportedly paying out $200 million to compensate for the loss of box office earnings.

Disney Streaming Services Gaining Ground On Netflix

Netflix Disney Plus (GDA via AP Images)

 

 

Disney said Thursday its streaming services flourished while its parks, travel and film businesses remained hobbled by the pandemic at the end of last year.

The entertainment colossus behind the Magic Kingdom and all its entertainment wonders saw subscriptions at its streaming services surge to more than 146 million subscribers, as people hunkering down due to the pandemic have turned to sources of online entertainment.

The audience growth for Disney+, Hulu, ESPN and India’s Hotstar comes as the parent company’s travel and amusement park business suffered, and shows the entertainment giant is gaining ground on leading streaming service Netflix’s 203 million subscribers.

“We’re confident that, with our robust pipeline of exceptional, high-quality content and the upcoming launch of our new Star-branded international general entertainment offering, we are well-positioned to achieve even greater success going forward,” Disney chief executive Bob Chapek said in an earnings release.

The growth of Disney’s streaming services, with the bulk of the audience made up of the 95 million subscribers who joined Disney+ since it launched about a year ago, trounced expectations.

Disney+ alone added 21.2 million paid subscribers in the final quarter of last year, according to the earnings report.

The entertainment giant is prioritizing exclusive programming, original shows and movies, as well as bundled streaming services to build on the momentum of its various offerings, which extend beyond Disney+ to include ESPN, Hulu and Hotstar.

Hit launches at Disney+ at the end of last year included an animated film “Soul” that combined comedy and drama with a message about finding the spark that gives life meaning.

The quarter also featured a new season of original Star Wars spin-off series “The Mandalorian.”

Disney has played to the strengths of its Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars teams, as well as its own studio content at the streaming service.

“Disney+ has been a massive success and is a testament to Disney’s brand equity and expertise in storytelling,” said eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom.

“This has been one of the most successful consumer product launches in recent memory.”

The analyst expected Disney streaming services to continue growing, and that its parks, television and movie businesses will recover quickly as Covid-19 vaccines are administered and pent-up demand is unleashed.

– Tending to talent –
The pandemic hit Disney’s parks and experiences unit hardest, with the company’s resorts closed or operating at reduced capacity and its cruise ships idle, according to executives.

Revenue in that unit plunged more than 50 percent, turning it from a big profit engine to a loss on the balance sheet.

Film and television production has also been disrupted by the pandemic, although much of it resumed in the recently ended quarter, the company reported.

Disney anticipated an additional billion dollars in costs this year associated with government regulations and safety measures for “employees, talent and guests” as a result of the health crisis.

The company also did not release any new films to theaters in the quarter, but stressed anew that it expected to return to debuting movies in cinemas.

Revenue in the quarter fell 22 percent to $16.25 billion but beat market expectations. Disney reported profit of $17 million compared with $2.1 billion in the same period a year earlier.

Disney shares were up three percent in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings figures.

Disney+ Streaming Tops 86 Million Subscribers

 

Walt Disney chief executive Bob Chapek told investors on Thursday that the company’s year-old streaming TV service Disney+ had passed 86.8 million subscribers, beating its “wildest expectations.”

The entertainment giant is prioritizing exclusive programming, original shows and movies, and bundled streaming services to build on the momentum of its various offerings which extend beyond Disney+ to include ESPN, Hulu and Star, executives said during an investor day.

“We knew this one-of-a-kind service featuring content only Disney can create would resonate with consumers and stand out in the marketplace,” Chapek said of Disney+.

“This success has bolstered our confidence in our continued acceleration towards a direct-to-consumer first business model.”

Disney+ competes with streaming television titans Netflix and Amazon Prime in a crowded market for online entertainment.

The streaming service, which will raise its US price by a dollar to $7.99, “has exceeded our wildest expectations with 86.8 million subscribers as of December 2nd,” Chapek said.

In a recent corporate reorganization, Disney split distribution from content creation in an effort to be more nimble in its delivery of shows to viewers, according to executives.

Data gathered by Disney+ on audience preferences is shared with creative teams to tailor shows to viewers’ tastes, the company said.

“This is especially important now given consumers’ rapidly changing consumption behaviors and the prolonged uncertainty due to the pandemic,” Chapek said.

Given the pandemic, Disney has planned film premiers on its streaming service and when feasible also at traditional theaters.

– Positioning for ‘future growth’ –
Regardless of where Disney content premiers, it will end up on Disney+ according to media and entertainment division chief Kareem Daniel.

“While this has been a very tough year for all of us here at Disney, we continue to take deliberate and innovative steps in running our businesses to best position them for future growth,” Chapek said.

The company has an array of Marvel, Star Wars and Disney shows lined up for release on its streaming service over the next few years, according to Daniel.

Disney will expand its television streaming services in 2021 to more markets, including Hong Kong, South Korea and Eastern Europe, according to head of international operations Rebecca Campbell.

Disney will also beef up its streaming service in India, where it has a partnership with Hotstar.

“India is a promising market opportunity,” Campbell said.

“This is why we decided to launch Disney+ in conjunction with Hotstar to create a truly integrated entertainment experience for consumers in that market.”

The streaming offer includes Bollywood films, local programming and Indian Premier League cricket matches, according to Campbell.

Disney also announced a new “Star Wars” film titled “Rogue Squadron.” The movie, by “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, is set in “a future era of the galaxy” and is scheduled for release at Christmas 2023.

The company additionally made public several new TV series within the sci-fi franchise, including two spin-offs from the creators of “The Mandalorian” and the return of Lando Calrissian.

Kardashians Move To Disney, Launching Streaming Content In 2021

Disney is working with the Kardashian-Jenner family on a new reality show on Hulu that’ll replace Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which ends in 2021.

 

Reality television’s royal family, the Kardashians, have inked a deal with Disney and will launch new content in 2021 on the entertainment giant’s Hulu and Star streaming subsidiaries, the platforms said Thursday.

Disney did not release details about the project, which family matriarch Kris Jenner said in a tweet was a “multi year partnership.”

Content created by the Kardashians will be available in the United States on Hulu, and in markets abroad will stream on Star, Disney’s new subscription video service which will launch in February.

It is a strategic shift for the Kardashians, who recently left cable television — which is declining in the United States — for a new home on a streaming platform, as the medium becomes increasingly popular.

“Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” the program which rocketed the family to fame, has been broadcast on cable channel E!, part of NBCUniversal.

In September, the family announced that the program would end in early 2021 after 20 seasons, almost 14 years after its debut.

A minor celebrity when the show launched, Kim Kardashian has become a global star thanks to the program, on which she built an empire with the help of her mother.

The reality show follows the Kardashians in their daily lives as they navigate family dramas, including falling outs between sisters Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie.

By building successful cosmetics companies off their TV fame, Kim’s fortune is now estimated by Forbes magazine at $780 million while Kylie is estimated to be worth $700 million.

Chadwick Boseman Role In ‘Black Panther’ Will Not Be Recast For Sequel

(FILES) Chadwick Boseman, the star of the ground-breaking superhero movie “Black Panther,”  died from colon cancer, his publicist told AFP August 28.
FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP

 

There will be only one T’Challa: Disney paid tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman Thursday by announcing that his pioneering role in “Black Panther” will not be recast in the sequel, as the company set out details of its upcoming Marvel superhero films and series.

Boseman died in August after a four-year battle with colon cancer, having never publicly discussed his condition, throwing the follow-up to one of the record-breaking Marvel films’ most acclaimed movies into doubt.

“His portrayal of T’Challa the Black Panther is iconic and transcends any iteration of the character in any other medium from Marvel’s past — and it’s for that reason that we will not recast the character,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told Disney’s investor day.

But a planned sequel to the 2018 smash hit — which saw Boseman play the first black superhero to get his own standalone film in the franchise — will still go ahead using “all of the rich and varied characters introduced in the first film.”

“To honor the legacy that Chad helped us build through his portrayal of the king of Wakanda, we want to continue to explore the world of Wakanda,” with returning director Ryan Coogler “hard at work on the sequel now,” added Feige.

The original “Black Panther,” set in the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, was adored by critics and audiences, becoming the first comic book film to be nominated for best picture at the Oscars and grossing over $1 billion worldwide.

The sequel is due in theaters in July 2022.

In a packed presentation covering more than 20 upcoming Marvel films and series, Feige announced that a new “Fantastic Four” movie will be directed by Jon Watts, who helped to reinvigorate the “Spider Man” films.

Disney acquired the movie rights to the “Fantastic Four” characters with its recent takeover of the rival Fox film studio, which had produced a 2015 flop based on the comic books.

Big screen return

Among other Marvel film announcements, Christian Bale joins “Thor: Love and Thunder” as the sequel’s villain, with filming due to start next month.

Samuel L Jackson reprises his role in the franchise for “Secret Invasion” on the Disney+ streaming service, which Feige hyped as “arguably the biggest crossover comic event in the last 20 years.”

With Robert Downey Jr’s popular Iron Man character having seemingly departed the Marvel films, “If Beale Street Could Talk” actress Dominique Thorne will star in new series “Ironheart” about a female genius inventor with an advanced suit of armor.

Marvel films veteran Don Cheadle will reprise his role for “Armor Wars,” also a Disney+ series.

Amid fears Disney could emulate rival Warner Bros in sending next year’s blockbusters straight to streaming, Feige confirmed the long-delayed “Black Widow” superhero movie starring Scarlett Johansson will “return to the big screen” in May.

At the start of Disney’s investor day Kareem Daniel, head of the company’s distribution unit, previewed plans to “release roughly 10 Marvel series, 10 ‘Star Wars’ series” as well as 15 Disney series and 15 Disney films on Disney+ “over the next few years.”

Disney also set out plans for a Pixar “origin story” for popular “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear, and a new “Sister Act” sequel with Whoopi Goldberg returning.

A new series based on the “Alien” films but set on Earth will be overseen by Noah Hawley (“Fargo”) along with original director Ridley Scott, while “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda will pen songs for “Encanto,” Disney’s 60th animated film set in a Colombian world of magic realism.

 

Mulan Movie Boycott Calls Grow Over Scenes Filmed In Xinjiang

People buy tickets for Disney’s Mulan film at a cinema inside a shopping mall in Bangkok on September 8, 2020. – Disney’s “Mulan” remake is facing fresh boycott calls after it emerged some of the blockbuster was filmed in China’s Xinjiang, where widespread rights abuses against the region’s Muslim population have been widely documented. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

 

Disney’s “Mulan” remake is facing fresh boycott calls after it emerged some of the blockbuster’s scenes were filmed in China’s Xinjiang, where widespread rights abuses against the region’s Muslim population have been widely documented.

The lavish $200 million film about a legendary female Chinese warrior was already tangled in political controversy after star Liu Yifei voiced support for Hong Kong’s police as they cracked down on democracy protests last year.

But the latest furore exploded as soon as the credits stopped rolling after the movie began showing on the Disney+ channel last week.

Viewers spotted that Disney included “special thanks” to eight government entities in Xinjiang — including the public security bureau in Turpan, a city in eastern Xinjiang where multiple internment camps have been documented.

Another entity thanked was the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department in Xinjiang.

The revelation has sparked renewed anger at a time of heightened scrutiny over Hollywood’s willingness to bow to authoritarian China.

Rights groups, academics and journalists have exposed a harsh crackdown against Uighur and Kazakh Muslims in Xinjiang, including mass internments, enforced sterilisations, forced labour as well as intense religious and movement restrictions.

Isaac Stone Fish, a senior fellow at the Asia Society, said the film was now “arguably Disney’s most problematic movie” since “Song of the South” — a 1946 glorification of antebellum plantation life that the company has since pulled.

“It’s sufficiently astonishing that it bears repeating,” he wrote in a Washington Post column.

“Disney has thanked four propaganda departments and a public security bureau in Xinjiang, a region in northwest China that is the site of one of the world’s worst human rights abuses happening today.”

Badiucao, a dissident Chinese artist living in Melbourne, said he was currently working on a new cartoon portraying Mulan as a guard at one of the internment camps in Xinjiang to satirise Disney’s new film.

“It’s very problematic and there’s no excuse. I mean, it’s clear, we have all the evidence showing what is going on in Xinjiang,” he told AFP.

– Coronavirus victim –
Baduicao accused Disney of “double standards”, embracing western social justice movements such as MeToo and Black Lives Matter, while turning a blind eye to China’s rights abuses.

The live-action remake of Disney’s 1998 animation classic, “Mulan” has had a troubled release.

It was meant to hit global theatres in March but became an early victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, Disney rocked the industry — and its own cast — by announcing the film would in streamed into living rooms in many markets, including the United States, which it started Friday.

Hollywood has been increasingly accused of hypocrisy over its relationship with authoritarian China.

In August the anti-censorship group Pen America published a report which said screenwriters, producers and directors often change scripts, delete scenes and alter content to avoid offending Chinese censors.

The actions include everything from deleting the Taiwanese flag from Tom Cruise’s bomber jacket in the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick,” to removing China as the source of a zombie virus in 2013’s “World War Z.”

But it also means completely avoiding sensitive issues including Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong politics, Xinjiang and the portrayal of LGBTQ characters, the report said.

AFP contacted Disney for comment but has yet to hear back on the Labor Day holiday.

Xinjiang is a resource-rich region home to mostly Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs and boasts spectacular desert and mountain backdrops.

After sectarian unrest and attacks by Uighur militants, Beijing blanketed the region in a draconian security crackdown, building dozens of huge internment camps.

Initially China denied the camps existed before switching to describing them as voluntary re-education centres.

Even before the latest Xinjiang controversy the hashtag #BoycottMulan has been trending in recent weeks Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan.

Activists in all three places have launched multiple online campaigns critical of China’s authoritarianism.

Dubbed the “Milk Tea Alliance” — named after a shared love of the drink — they seized on social media comments made last year by actress Liu supporting Hong Kong’s police.

They have also noted the resemblance of actor Tzi Ma, who plays Mulan’s heroic father, to China’s leader Xi Jinping.

After her arrest last month under Beijing’s new security law, young Hong Kong dissident Agnes Chow was dubbed “the real Mulan” by supporters.

 

AFP

Nikita Pearl Waligwa, ‘Queen of Katwe’ Actor, Dies At 15

Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016. Photo: Disney
Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016. Photo: Disney

 

Nikita Pearl Waligwa, the young Ugandan newcomer who starred in Disney’s movie about a Ugandan chess prodigy, Queen of Katwe, has died of brain tumour, according to Gayaza High School.

Waligwa was in her senior year at Gayaza High School at the time of her death.

According to the BBC and Ugandan newspaper, Daily Monitor, she was 15.


Waligwa, who played the role of Gloria, a younger friend of the main character in the 2016 Disney film, was “a darling to many”, the secondary school wrote on Twitter.

“No words can explain the pain at the moment,” it added.

Waligwa had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 and seemed to recover a year later. 

However, in 2019, another tumor was found. 

‘Queen of Katwe’ director Mira Nair helped organize efforts to fund Waligwa’s treatment during filming, according to the BBC.

The film told the real-life story of Mutesi who is one of Uganda’s most successful chess players. She won three Ugandan Women’s Junior Championship and has represented the country at four international chess olympiads.

Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo also starred in the film. They played Mutesi’s mother and chess teacher.

“The small one can become the big one,” is one of Gloria’s memorable quotes from the movie.

Disney Settles Michael Jackson Documentary Dispute

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 1, 1993 in Singapore shows US pop megastar Michael Jackson performing during his “Dangerous” tour. STR / AFP

 

Disney and Michael Jackson’s estate have resolved a copyright dispute over a documentary about the late King of Pop that saw the Hollywood studio accused of breathtaking hypocrisy and aggressive tactics.

“The Last Days of Michael Jackson”, a two-hour program that aired on Disney-owned ABC in 2018, was accused of using the pop star’s songs, music videos, concert footage and clips of his memorial service without permission.

On Thursday, Jackson lawyer Howard Weitzman said in a statement to AFP: “The matter has been amicably resolved.” No details of the settlement were provided.

The Jackson estate’s lawyers alleged in a complaint filed last year that Disney had ignored copyright law while zealously prosecuting anyone who infringed on its own intellectual property.

“Unable to make a compelling presentation about Michael Jackson on its own, Disney decided to exploit the Jackson Estate’s intellectual property,” read the complaint.

Disney has argued that the documentary — a broad overview of Jackson’s life — made fair use of content including parts of hits “Billie Jean” and “Beat It”, as allowed under copyright law.

But the complaint noted that “Disney has threatened to sue independent childcare centers for having pictures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on their walls.”

“Disney once sued a couple on public assistance for $1 million when they appeared at children’s parties dressed as an orange tiger and a blue donkey. Apparently, those costumes cut too close to Tigger and Eeyore for Disney’s tastes,” it added.

Jackson is estimated to have sold 350 million records, including “Thriller”, the best-selling album of all time.

He amassed 13 Grammy Awards, 13 number one solo singles in the United States and became the first artist in history to have a top ten single in the Billboard Hot 100 in five different decades.

He died in June 2009 at age 50, while he was in the Los Angeles area practicing for a planned series of concerts in London entitled “This Is It”.

The cause was given as an overdose of the anesthetic propofol. His personal doctor, Conrad Murray, was convicted in 2011 for administering the fatal dose of medication to Jackson.

The Jackson estate this year filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO for “posthumous character assassination” after its documentary “Leaving Neverland” alleged that Jackson molested young boys at his fairytale-themed ranch.

HBO has launched an appeal in its bid to dismiss the case.

In his lifetime, Jackson denied all child sex allegations.

 

AFP

‘Frozen 2’ Tops North American Box Office With $127 Million

British singer and television personality Stacey Solomon (C) poses with people dressed as characters from the film on the red carpet as she arrives to attend the European premiere of the film “Frozen 2” in London on November 17, 2019.
Niklas HALLE’N / AFP

 

Disney’s new release “Frozen 2” iced out competitors to top North American box offices over the weekend, taking in an estimated $127 million, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations said Sunday.

The film follows the beloved characters from 2013 hit “Frozen,” as they travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest in search of the origin of Queen Elsa’s (voiced by Idina Menzel) magical ice powers.

READ ALSO: 2Baba, Burna Boy, Others Win At AFRIMA 2019

“Frozen 2,” which has come out just in time for the winter holidays, set a November record for an animated movie and secured the third-best start for an animated film behind fellow Disney titles “Incredibles 2” (2018) and “Finding Dory” (2016), according to Variety.

In second was last week’s leader, “Ford v. Ferrari,” with an estimated $16 million. The Fox film is based on the true story of how a team at Ford built a car to challenge Ferrari’s longtime dominance of France’s classic 24-hour Le Mans race.

New Sony release “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a drama about a journalist’s relationship with beloved television star Fred Rogers (played by Tom Hanks), debuted in third place with an estimated $13.5 million.

Thriller “21 Bridges” opened at fourth, taking in an estimated $9.2 million. The new movie from STX Films stars Chadwick Boseman as an NYPD detective who shuts down all 21 of Manhattan’s bridges to find two suspected cop killers.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

“Midway” ($4.7 million)

“Playing with Fire” ($4.6 million)

“The Good Liar” ($3.4 million)

“Charlie’s Angels” ($3.2 million)

“Last Christmas” ($3.0 million)

“Joker” ($2.8 million)

AFP

Disney Tops Earnings Estimates Ahead Of Streaming Launch

 

Walt Disney Co. on Thursday reported better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by the release of blockbuster films “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” as it prepared for its new streaming television service.

Disney profit in the recently ended quarter was $1.05 billion, down from $2.3 billion a year ago, on revenue that grew 34 percent to $19.1 billion.

The slump in profits came as Disney absorbed key film and television operations of 21st Century Fox and geared up for its launch of the streaming service Disney+ that aims to compete globally against Netflix and others.

“We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience,” said Disney chief executive Robert Iger.

“We’re excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12.”

Iger said the company reached a deal for the service to be on Amazon’s Fire TV platform, the latest distribution agreement for Disney+.

Disney shares were up more than five percent in after-market trading following release of the earnings figures.

‘Lion King’ roars

Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operations with box office hits “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin” fueling gains.

The entertainment giant expects revenue in the current quarter to be boosted by the forthcoming release of a sequel to “Frozen” and the final installment of the “Star Wars” film saga.

It will thereafter take a “hiatus” from “Star Wars” box office films but has an array of spin-off shows planned exclusively for its streaming service.

Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

However, integrating Fox into Disney has cost more than expected and the newly added studios have brought in less money than hoped.

Disney saw smaller revenue gains in its cable and broadcasting operations as well as its theme park division.

Iger would not disclose details of pre-sales of Disney+ subscriptions, but said the price — $6.99 monthly — has met with “great enthusiasm” by consumers.

The Disney+ online streaming service will debut in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands before gradually expanding internationally in Europe then rolling out worldwide.

Its films and TV shows will be available, along with the library it acquired from 21st Century Fox. That includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel superhero franchises and ABC television content.

Disney+ will also combine offerings from powerhouse brands including Pixar, with content from Hulu and sports network ESPN.

Apple rolling

Apple last week launched a streaming television service that features a budding library of original shows starring big-name celebrities, aimed at winning over its gadget lovers at home and on the go.

The Apple TV+ on-demand streaming service launched in more than 100 countries at $4.99 per month.

Original Apple TV+ shows have so far been met with lukewarm early reviews, but the low subscription price and an offer of year-long memberships free with purchase of the company’s devices was expected to encourage viewers to tune in.

Netflix, meanwhile, has budgeted $15 billion this year for original shows, on top of the billions it has devoted to exclusive productions in recent years.

Amazon, which has deep pockets thanks to its e-commerce and cloud services, has also poured cash into original shows for its Prime Video service.

This sets up a potential spending war among the major streaming players, according to analysts.

Even more competition looms on the horizon, with AT&T’s Warner Media to launch its “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”

NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is also launching next year.

‘Lion King’ Fends Off Tarantino, Maintains Box Office Rule

In this file photo taken on July 9, 2019, US singer/songwriter Beyonce arrives for the world premiere of Disney’s “The Lion King” at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood.

 

Disney’s “The Lion King” held on to its reign in North American theaters, taking in $75.5 million over the three-day weekend, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations said on Sunday.

The healthy haul for the Disney production brought its total to $350.8 million and put it on top of the box office for the second week in a row, capping a streak of successes for the studio after its “Avengers: Endgame” was last week named the highest-grossing movie of all time and now has global box office earnings of $2.7924 billion.

Directed by Jon Favreau, “The Lion King” is a remake of the 1994 animated film, employing hyper-realistic computer-generated images with a voice cast including Donald Glover as Simba and Beyonce as Nala, together with Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and James Earl Jones.

Despite rave reviews, director Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,” came in a distant second place with $40.4 million.

The ninth of the 10 movies Tarantino has said he will make before retiring, “Once Upon a Time” is set in Tinseltown in 1969 and features an ensemble cast typical of the director’s work, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning and Al Pacino among the stars.

“Spider-Man: Far from Home” came in third in its fourth week with $12.2 million. Continuing where “Avengers: Endgame” left off, the production by Sony and Disney’s Marvel Studios is the latest installment in the blockbuster franchise, with Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man leading a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya and Jake Gyllenhaal.

“Toy Story 4,” came in fourth, taking in $9.9 million in its sixth week in cinemas, which have brought it more than $395.6 million in total.

The latest installment in the family-friendly Disney/Pixar animation franchise that began in 1995, the movie features the voices of Tom Hanks (Woody) and Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear).

The fifth spot went to Paramount’s “Crawl,” with $4 million in its third week. Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario play a father and daughter battling hungry gators after a hurricane hits their Florida town.

Rounding out the weekend’s top 10 were:

“Yesterday” ($3 million)

“Aladdin” ($2.7 million)

“Stuber” ($1.6 million)

“Annabella Comes Home” ($1.6 million)

“The Farewell” ($1.6 million)