Major questions still loom as Disney prepares to close its multi-billion dollar acquisition of Fox’s film and TV assets. Such as, what structure will the studio take? And will Disney continue to operate Fox’s film assets as is, or rebrand the studio that has been around for more than 80 years?
Disney CEO Bob Iger took a step toward answering some of those questions on Thursday during the company’s annual shareholder meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.
He said the Fox brand will remain intact, and that Mouse House plans to continue releasing 20th Century Fox films.
“The company itself will be The Walt Disney Co., but there will still be companies, especially on the movie side, with the Fox name,” Iger said during the meeting, which Disney live-streamed. “We will continue to make movies under the Fox brand and Fox Searchlight brand. And FX, which isn’t Fox, but sounds like it will keep its name.”
Iger’s comments provide a little more detail behind how Disney plans to incorporate and operate the film and TV entertainment assets acquired from Fox in its $71.3 billion deal.
During the Disney quarterly earnings conference call with the Wall Street community in February, Iger said that despite Disney’s PG-rated, family-friendly identity, the studio plans to continue in the business of making R-rated movies like Fox’s “Deadpool” and “Logan.”
And the studio will certainly want to keep up production at Fox Searchlight, which has been a staple in awards races while also producing some successful indie films at the box office, such as last year’s “The Favourite.”
At the time of Disney’s February conference call, Iger noted the popularity of the films Fox makes, saying that it will be important for Disney that they clearly brand and market them.
Iger also said during Disney’s shareholder meeting that the Fox acquisition does not include Fox’s studio lot, but that Disney has a lease agreement to use the lot and sound stages “for a really long time.”
Disney and Fox shareholders voted in July 2018 to approve the $71.3 billion bid to buy the lion’s share of Fox’s entertainment assets. The deal, Iger said during the meeting, is expected to close “soon.” Disney previously had been promising a first half of 2019 close. Executives and rank and file employees at Fox have been in a state of uncertainty about their futures since the two companies agreed to the deal.
In October of last year, Disney laid out plans detailing which executives would make the move from Fox over to the Mouse House.
Emma Watts will report directly to Disney studio head Alan Horn and will serve as vice chairman for Twentieth Century Fox Film and president of production at Fox. Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula will stay on as co-chairmen for Fox Searchlight and will also report directly to Horn, along with Elizabeth Gabler, who will serve as president of production at Fox 2000.