Refresh for updates In the wake of a Fox Networks Group town hall today, Deadline is hearing that the company edict on the Pico Boulevard lot is business as usual amid news of the Disney-Fox mega-merger. However, that is hardly what rank and file staffers are feeling. Fear, uncertainty and sadness is the order of the day; since the news hit this morning, we hear that company morale is low and there is a feeling of defeat, especially on the film side.
“It’s clear to me now that the split off from News Corp and then the subsequent buyouts of executives two years ago was all in preparation for this,” said one worried longtime executive. “It’s a really sad day for those of us who love Fox so much and have given this company our all. We all feel like we’re going to get buyouts or told that our services are no longer needed as there are overlaps everywhere.”
Today’s town hall took place at 10 AM PT at the Zanuck Theater with two more scheduled — one at noon and another at 3 PM, and then Friday at 3 PM. Deadline also hears that 20th Century Fox chairman and CEO Stacey Snider wasn’t participating in today’s gatherings. Instead, she’s meeting with smaller groups throughout the day.
Snider cancelled her trip to The Post premiere in Washington, DC so she could stay in Los Angeles and talk to employees under her tutelage.
One of the things we hear Snider is telling staff is it will be status quo over the next 12 to 18 months as 20th Century Fox aligns with Disney; that it’s an opportunity for some because content will be in front of more people than ever before using the studio’s platforms, and with one of the strongest brands in the world in Disney.
Over that span, Fox employees are expected to continue to do what they do at a high level. In fact, akin to the relationship between AT&T and Time Warner since they dropped their merger news, Fox and Disney employees per federal regulations should not be in communication with each other on business matters during the Department of Justice’s evaluation. Hence, 20th Century Fox is expected to oversee their 2018 and potentially 2019 release schedule on their own.
Deadline sister publication Variety reports that Rice told employees in his town hall meeting that Disney will lease the Century City lot for the next seven years as part of the pending merger.
“There is so much overlap,” said the source in regards to the duplication of distribution, marketing and international departments between Disney and Fox. Disney’s international ops is the best in the biz, last year clearing $4.6 billion, which took them to an industry global record of $7.6 billion. Already at the end of November, Disney has crossed $5 billion worldwide. “Things will be the same until they’re not but we aren’t being told anything,” the source added.
“We had a feeling something like this was coming,” said another exec.”There had been whispers. No one knows anything right now and it’s not a good place to be in, that feeling, you know?”
When Disney first acquired Miramax in the 1990s, it allowed that unit to largely run autonomously under the Weinstein brothers, with their own marketing, distribution, publicity and foreign finance/international departments. Disney would take territories on a number of Miramax titles. The speculation though is that setup isn’t expected with Fox in the long run. Essentially, it will be akin to when Warner Bros finally absorbed New Line Cinema after the Time Warner merger allowed that label to run on its own for 12 years following its merger with Turner Broadcasting (New Line’s former owner).
In early 2008, following the box office misfire of New Line’s The Golden Compass, Warner Bros. absorbed New Line’s marketing, PR, distribution and foreign duties with founders Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne departing.
On the international side, there’s an interesting connection between Disney and Fox: It is Bill Mechanic, a former Buena Vista International chief who became one of the architects of Fox International back in 1993. Fox’s foreign film arm was floundering, with revenues down and offices poorly managed. At the time, the studio had sold off overseas rights to seven of its 14 titles. In fact, when Mechanic was at Disney, he bought the overseas rights to Fox’s Die Hard With a Vengeance, unheard of even then for a franchise. Mechanic made a decision that would revolutionize Fox’s global unit: He appointed Jim Gianopulos its chief; at the time the exec was running Fox’s international TV branch. Gianopulos very quickly demonstrated a gift for selecting dates and tailor-made market-by-market campaigns. A big turning point for Fox international was when Gianopulos decided that they wouldn’t give up international on Titanic when it came time to co-finance with Paramount. The pic became the first to gross $1.5 billion overseas.