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Disney’s Alan Horn and Fox’s Emma Watts Address Merger: ‘We’re Living Through a Lot of Change’

CinemaCon 2019: ”I’m still getting my mind around all this,“ Horn says

Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn spoke to exhibitors at CinemaCon in his first public speech since Disney completed its merger with 20th Century Fox.

Horn was joined by Fox vice chair Emma Watts, the senior-most member of 20th Century Fox to make the transition to Disney. Chairman/CEO Stacey Snider departed from the company following the merger’s completion on March 20, with distribution chiefs Chris Aronson and Andrew Cripps also leaving.

“I’m still getting my mind around all this and internalizing it,” Horn said. We are truly excited because together we will be more than the sum of our parts.”

Disney presented previews for several top films on its 2019 slate, including “The Lion King,” “Frozen II,” and “Avengers: Endgame.” But the studio also opened their presentation with a montage of Disney films interspersed with famous Fox titles like “Alien,” “Avatar,” and “The Simpsons.”

With the merger, Disney inherited 13 films Fox has slated for release through March 2020 and is expected to move some of them around on the theatrical calendar. While Fox Searchlight will continue to distribute independent films under Disney — the CinemaCon presentation included a 25th-anniversary montage for the specialty wing — fellow label Fox 2000 will be shuttered after it finishes the release of its remaining slate.

Watts, who is tasked with handling Fox’s slate, presented sneak previews for the Marvel film “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” the action comedy “Stuber,” and the James Mangold racing film “Ford v. Ferrari.”

“This is certainly a stark time in the business, and even though we’re living through a lot of change in our industry, the good news is that the formula for a good movie remains the same,” Watts said.

“Though much has been written in the press about Fox’s legacy in the past tense, it is my humble hope that legacies are made every day, and with the vast resources at Disney, we are ready to write our next chapter,” she continued.

While Disney has said that the launch of its upcoming streaming service, Disney+, is the company’s top priority, Horn assured CinemaCon attendees that movie theaters would not be left behind.

“The theatre is and will always be in our minds. It is the cornerstone of the theatrical business, period,” he said. “It is really where it all started…it’s where Disney and Fox will continue to move forward as one united company.”

Disney grossed a record $3.09 billion at the domestic box office in 2018 with a 26% market share. With Fox included, that market share increases to 35%. Combined, Fox and Disney also released five of the top 10 highest grossing films worldwide last year, and six of the top 10 on the domestic charts.

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