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 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.
Competition in India’s booming streaming market is heating up as Netflix joins forces with a director of Bollywood feel-good blockbusters and Apple launches its TV platform for 99 rupees ($1.39) a month.
Netflix announced late Wednesday a long-term partnership with Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment to make a range of new fiction and non-fiction series and films for the platform.
Johar has directed eight films including “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” with Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan, and “Raazi”, nominated for best picture at next week’s Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, dubbed the Bollywood Oscars.
“It’s going to be P.H.A.T — pretty hot and tempting,” said Johar, whose Dharma Entertainment is one of India’s biggest production firms and which already teamed up with Netflix for the successful “Lust Stories” anthology.
Lionsgate’s new action-packed political thriller “Angel Has Fallen” debuted atop the North American box office with an estimated $21.3 million in ticket sales, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.
“Angel,” which stars Gerard Butler playing a Secret Service agent wrongly accused of trying to kill the president (Morgan Freeman), is the third film in the franchise. It also stars Nick Nolte, Piper Perabo and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Last weekend’s leader, Universal’s raunchy tween comedy “Good Boys,” slipped to $11 million but managed to hold onto second spot on a sleepy late-summer weekend.
In third place was another new release, Sony’s “Overcomer,” a Christian-themed movie about a former basketball coach (Alex Kendrick) who agrees half-heartedly to help prepare a young asthmatic orphan girl (Aryn Wright-Thompson) for a huge cross-country meet.
It took in $8.2 million despite tepid reviews.
Just behind in fourth place was Disney’s updated version of “The Lion King,” which pulled in $8.15 million, bringing its domestic total over six weeks in release to $510.6 million and its global total to more than $1.5 billion.
Universal’s action film “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham came in fifth, taking in $8.1 million.
Marvel’s superhero films could lose their most famous character after Sony confirmed Tuesday that talks over its deal to share Spider-Man with the Disney-owned studio have broken down.
The Marvel movies have together grossed $22 billion at the global box office, and British actor Tom Holland’s Spider-Man has become an increasingly central figure in the most lucrative franchise in film history.
But while the teen web-slinger has for decades been the crown jewel of the Marvel comic book empire on which the films are based, Sony owns the character’s movie rights.
He only began appearing in Disney-owned Marvel’s “cinematic universe” after the Hollywood giants stuck an almost-unprecedented, and still highly secretive, 2015 deal to co-produce and split profits across the films.
A key aspect of that partnership has now broken down.
Sony confirmed that Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige — widely credited with the phenomenal boom in comic book movies of the past decade — will no longer produce Spider-Man films, with a spokesman adding the studio was “disappointed.”
“We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him… do not allow time for him to work on IP (intellectual property) they do not own,” the Sony spokesman said in a statement sent to AFP.
The separation makes it “almost certain” that the character Spider-Man will be absent from crossover appearances in future Marvel films, according to Hollywood Reporter journalist Graeme McMillan.
Multiple Hollywood media outlets reported earlier Tuesday that Disney and Sony had failed to agree on financial terms for future Spider-Man films.
According to Deadline, which broke the news, Disney had wanted to significantly increase its financial stake in new Spider-Man movies, while Sony refused to alter existing terms.
Sony said the reports “mischaracterized recent discussions,” but thanked Feige for “the path he has helped put us on, which we will continue.”
In financial terms, Spider-Man is one of the most successful superheroes in movie history.
Holland’s iteration of Spider-Man has delivered box office gold — he has appeared in a total of five Marvel Studios and Sony films since the collaboration deal, which collectively grossed almost $8 billion worldwide.
These included Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame,” the highest-grossing movie of all time.
At Comic-Con last month, Marvel Studios set out a timeline of films and television shows scheduled for the next two years including new outings for popular characters Thor, Black Widow, Doctor Strange and Loki — but none featuring Spider-Man.
Feige is also expected to be busy overseeing new Marvel franchises acquired by Disney in its purchase of 21st Century Fox, which include the popular “X-Men”.
Sony last year produced an Oscar-winning Spider-Man animation separate from Marvel Studios’ domain, as well as a standalone film centered on popular Spider-Man villain Venom.
Disney did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Disney and Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” has stormed into a historic territory, earning $2.19 billion worldwide in less than two weeks to become the No. 2 film of all time, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday.
That exalted number, which includes the film’s estimated take of $145.8 million this three-day weekend in North America, pushes the superhero blockbuster past “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which netted $2.07 billion, and even “Titanic” ($2.18 billion).
Only “Avatar” ($2.79 billion) has done better. Yet “Avengers” hit its record total in just 11 days, taking in a stunning $575.8 million in China alone.
Hollywood analysts predict a long run for “Avengers,” which drew a rare 96 per cent rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website and features a star-studded cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper and Josh Brolin.
Trailing “Avengers” by several light years, rival studios still managed to place new films in the next three box-office spots.
Sony’s psychological thriller “The Intruder” came in second, at $11 million. Michael Ealy and Meagan Good star as a young couple who buy a dream home in California’s Napa Valley unaware that its previous owner (Dennis Quaid) plans to take it back — at all costs.
In third was Lionsgate’s romantic comedy “Long Shot,” at $10 million. Seth Rogen plays Fred Flarsky, an out-of-work journalist who has a romantic interest in his former babysitter (Charlize Theron) who — now a candidate for the US presidency — might seem a bit out of his reach.
STX Films’ animated film “UglyDolls” placed fourth, at $8.5 million. The plot? A bunch of misfit dolls with pointy ears and bad teeth — residents of Uglyville — face a harsh world but finally discover their inner beauty. The voices of Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Wanda Sykes and Janelle Monae are featured.
In fifth place, hanging strong in its ninth week out, was Disney’s “Captain Marvel,” at $4.3 million. Brie Larson stars as a former fighter pilot who gains superpowers.
Arsenal said Friday they will “remind players of their responsibilities” after a video emerged that appears to show a number of stars inhaling nitrous oxide.
Players including Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Matteo Guendouzi feature in the footage, which appears to come from CCTV footage and was published by the Sun newspaper on Friday.
In a statement, Arsenal said: “The players will be spoken to about this and reminded of their responsibilities as representatives of the club.”
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas or “hippy crack”, is freely available although it is technically illegal to sell it for recreational purposes.
In the video, which reportedly comes from a London venue shortly before the start of the current season, other Gunners players including Henrikh Mkhitaryan can be seen rejecting the offer to use the gas.
The footage is the latest to show top players being linked with nitrous oxide. Raheem Sterling was warned by his then club Liverpool after footage emerged of him using the substance in 2015.
In the same year, Jack Grealish was warned by the then Aston Villa manager, Tim Sherwood, after pictures emerged of him appearing to inhale the gas, and Saido Berahino was reprimanded by West Brom for a similar incident in 2014.
When an image was posted of then Tottenham player Kyle Walker in 2013, he apologised on Twitter, writing: “I won’t be doing this again and hope that no one else is influenced into putting their health at risk by my actions.”
Arsenal, under new manager Unai Emery, are currently fifth in the Premier League table and are unbeaten in 20 consecutive matches in all competitions.
There is a killer moment in the new film “Pope Francis — A Man of His Word” when you realise what he is up against.
The Argentine is dressing down the Cardinals and bejewelled princes of the Curia who run the Catholic Church, lacerating them for their greed, back-stabbing and lust for power.
The scandal-hit, Italian-dominated body is full of people leading immoral double lives who “possess a heart of stone and a stiff neck”, he tells them in German director Wim Wenders’ remarkable insight into the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
“Pay a visit to the cemeteries” and look at those “who thought they were immortal, immune and indispensable,” Francis urges them in the feature, which premiered late Sunday at the Cannes film festival.
“You see the sharp faces of some of these cardinals who are rich and ambitious,” said Wenders, who interviewed the reforming pontiff over several months for the portrait.
“But you can also see other archbishops thinking, ‘Yes, this is why we elected you.’ As Francis said, you cannot combat the diseases of the world without examining yourself first.”
The picture that emerges of Francis from Wenders’ unprecedented access is of a man determined to radically transform the vast wealthy institution into “a poor church for poor people”.
And Wenders, the maker of such classics as “Wings of Desire”, “Paris, Texas” and “The Buena Vista Social Club”, believes this pontiff has the steeliness to do it.
Enemies digging in
Many in the Curia “think he is going too fast and too far,” according to Wenders, and have been digging in with traditionalists to resist him.
“But I think the opposite,” said the filmmaker. “I think Francis is stepping on the brakes in order to take them all along.
“Yet also he is fearless. He knows what has to be done and he wants to push it as far as he can knowing that he is not young anymore.”
For Wenders, a lapsed Catholic who rediscovered his faith in a “friendly God” after the death of his doctor father, the 81-year-old is a revolutionary.
“When you look him in the eye you see this is a very loving man who really likes people. He is as honest as a man can be and you see the courage in his eyes.
“His message — that we are equal and we have to treat each other as equals — is why people say he is a communist. We cannot leave people behind in the dust. It is a tough message and he doesn’t hesitate with it.”
Francis is a radical just like the medieval saint from whom he took his name, Wenders argued, “who like him wanted to go back to early Christianity… when the church was an organisation of poor people.”
Call from the Vatican
“St Francis of Assisi was also the first ecologist,” said Wenders, who was “amazed” by the depth of the pope’s understanding of climate change and his warning that the global “mania for growth” is threatening mankind.
“That growth is coming at the expense of the poor majority… who are suffering first and worst from climate change,” said Wenders.
The director said the Vatican contacted him out of the blue asking whether he would be interested in talking to the pope.
“I was given carte blanche,” he told AFP, and access to the Vatican’s video archives. “There was no interference whatsoever,” he insisted, despite the film being co-produced by Vatican television.
Wenders said he was also touched by the pope’s deep tolerance of other religions and lifestyles.
“He says don’t try to convert anybody, just try to convince them to be of goodwill and to accept each other. His firm belief is there is no difference between people. That is revolutionary — communists don’t have that message.”
But despite trying to lead by example by living modestly, the pope knows his power is limited. “All he has are his words,” Wenders said.
“Each time he left us after the shoot, he would look into our eyes and ask each of us, ‘Please pray for me.’
“There are a lot of people praying for him, praying that he can do it,” Wenders said.
Italy’s three-time premier and billionaire, Silvio Berlusconi, continues to provide ample entertainment fodder, with the first English-language film about his scandal-filled life now in the works.
Based on a journalistic expose, “The Marquise” by Emmy-nominated US producer Steve Jones will focus on a dubious property deal involving Berlusconi’s mansion on a privately owned island, trade magazine Variety reported Saturday.
Jones told Variety he would travel to Italy next month to scout for locations and meet actors and potential directors.
The project is the latest of several films on the 81-year-old media mogul who staged a surprise political comeback in 2017.
It comes as Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino’s lavish biopic “Loro”, about the tycoon’s infamous “bunga bunga” party era, is about to hit the screens in Italy.
The two-part movie failed to make it into this year’s Cannes selection.
Back in 2006, Nanni Moretti’s Berlusconi satire “The Caiman” became one of Italy’s most successful films that year.
Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood’s is shooting his latest film in northern France, based on a true story of three U.S. citizens and a British man who disarmed a gunman on a Paris-bound train.
Eastwood filmed a sequence for the movie “The 15:17 to Paris” on Friday (September 1) in the train station of Arras, where residents are thrilled about the project.
“The 15:17 to Paris” is a re-enactment of the 2015 Thalys train attack in France and the childhood friends who thwarted it.
Eastwood cast real-life heroes Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone to play themselves in the picture.
The three men overcame gunman Ayoub El-Khazzani on an Amsterdam-Paris train, preventing him from carrying out a planned massacre.
After filming in Paris, the set moved to the northern town of Arras where the high-speed train had prematurely ended its journey.
At the time, Sadler, Skarlatos and Chris Norman, a British consultant, had given interviews to media in a small cafe near the train station while Stone was being treated in hospital for wounds he received during the attack.
They said they had no choice but to react when they saw the gunman cocking his assault rifle. Stone said he choked him while Skarlatos hit him on the head with one of his firearms.
Stone’s and Skarlatos’ military training kicked in while they provided first aid and searched the train to make sure there were no other gunmen, they said at the time.
They said the gunman was apparently untrained in firearms and that he could have used all his firepower to devastating effect if he had known more about weapons.
Then French President Francois Hollande awarded the three Americans and the Briton France’s highest decoration, the Legion of Honour, for their heroism.
Jane Fonda wished the sex scene in her new movie with Robert Redford had lasted longer, the 79-year-old American actress said as their latest collaboration on screen “Our Souls at Night” premiered at the Venice film festival on Friday (September 01).
“I live for sex scenes with him,” Fonda told journalists in Venice. “He’s a great kisser so it was fun to kiss him in my 20s and to kiss him again in my almost 80s.”
Forty-seven years after their collaboration on the set of “Barefoot in the Park”, Fonda and Redford reunite in a Netflix production directed by Indian filmmaker Ritesh Batra about getting another chance at love when one gets older.
Redford, also the movie’s producer, said he wanted to make it because today’s film industry was increasingly geared towards younger viewers and “there were very few opportunities for films to be made that would satisfy the older audience”.
Both 81-year-old Redford and Fonda were honoured with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the festival on Friday.
The movie, which screened out-of-competition at the festival, tells the story of Addie Moore and Louis Waters, two retired and widowed neighbours living in a small town in the U.S. state of Colorado.
They have known each other most of their lives but rarely spoken. That changes when Addie knocks on Louis’ door one night and without much ado, asks: “Would you be interested in coming to my house sometime to sleep with me?”
What started as simply having bedtime conversations to help Addie fall asleep, soon goes deeper.
Both start sharing their long-silenced regrets about life-changing events in their married lives – Louis’ extramarital affair and Addie’s loss of a daughter – and the resulting difficult relationship with their adult children.
“For me the movie is about hope,” Fonda said about the adaptation of a Kent Haruf novel.
While Redford lamented the fact that when you get older “you have to give up certain things” which he found hard to deal with, Fonda said at least on a love and sexual level getting older was a good thing.
“It gets better because we’re braver, what the heck do we have to lose? So my skin sags, so does his. You know your body better so you’re not afraid to ask for what you need,” she said.
Polish film director Joanna Kos-Krauze showed her film ‘Birds are singing in Kigali’ at the 52nd International film festival in the western Bohemian spa of Karlovy Vary.
Kos-Krauze started working on the Rwandan genocide drama together with her husband and longtime co-operator, director Krzysztof Krauze, who died in 2014. Three years after his death the film now premiered in the main competition of the Karlovy Vary film festival.
Three years after his death the film now premiered in the main competition of the Karlovy Vary film festival.
The film tells the story of Polish ornithologist Anna, who goes to Rwanda in 1994 – just as the Hutu majority unleashes genocide against the smaller population of Tutsis.
Anna manages to save the daughter of a local colleague whose entire family has been murdered and takes her to Poland.
Later, Anna follows Claudine back to Africa and there she observes the Tutsi woman’s search for traces of her former life and graves of her family members.
“It was natural for us because the Holocaust happened in Poland, we are dealing with the consequences till today. We cope in different ways, sometimes Poles cope very well, sometimes very badly, as shown with the Jedwabne case where dialogue is still very difficult,” Kos-Krauze said of the film.
“We were aiming to do a film about the Holocaust for a long time, but we couldn’t find a story where we could tell the story using a new language. In the end, we decided, after spending almost six years in Africa and after arriving in Rwanda that we will try to join these two elements. And that’s how it started. Also, looking at what is going on in Europe at the moment.”
Polish actress Jowita Budnik said she had an unusual experience in Rwanda.
“In reality filming in Rwanda took place at the end of the making of the film. They comprise around one-third of the film, the whole story,” she said. “But we spent a lot of time in Rwanda, I spent around three months there, it’s an unusual experience, totally different country and culture. We also remembered we are making a film about a terrible genocide and despite the beauty of the country and wonderful people it was hard to forget.”
Rwandan actress Eliane Umuhira said playing a role in a film that tells a story of that magnitude was scary at first.
She said, “It is a big responsibility, it’s a very big responsibility because the story I tell is the story of million people who died but also another million people who survived them and who went through the same process, the same trauma and have to heal.
“At first I was a bit afraid when I took the role that I may not do justice to the story and then, later on, I realised that actually it is a good opportunity to share with the world what we went through but also how we came up and now we are living.”
More than 300 film makers will be introduced at this year’s edition of the Karlovy Vary film festival and some 200 films from around the world will be shown. The festival is intended for both film professionals as well as the general public. It runs until July 8.