It could be a year or more until , the uncertainty over 20th Century Fox’s future is leaving Fox out of the loop when it comes to acquiring certain new projects. The Dwayne Johnson-led action comedy Red Notice was shopped to studios earlier this year, ultimately landing at Legendary Pictures, but reportedly the team avoided pitching the movie to Fox. One sales agent explained, “People are making an effort to include [Fox] out of respect, but it’s not anyone’s first choice because you don’t know what the studio is going to be.“
Curently, 20th Century Fox is one of the “Big Six” studios in Hollywood, and is divided into a number of different branches, including Fox Searchlight (which produces lower-budgeted and prestige pictures with Oscars potential, like The Shape of Water and Jackie) and Fox 2000 (the unit behind Paper Towns and Love, Simon). The Wall Street Journal highlights those last two as divisions that are likely to survive the buyout, and Disney CEO Bob Iger has specifically promised to keep Searchlight as it is, telling shareholders in March:
“We have every intention, once the acquisition is approved, to maintain the business of Fox Searchlight. We think they’re in the business of making high quality films, recognised often by the Academy and all the Oscars that they’ve won. And we think there’s ample opportunity for us as a company to continue to support those efforts.”
However, the fate of 20th Century Fox itself is less certain. While Searchlight has its own successful niche, there’s an element of redundancy to having an entirely separate studio under the Disney umbrella making the kind of four-quadrant tentpole movies that Disney is already known for. Fox’s new parent company could well decide to simply fold 20th Century Fox’s assets into its own collection and dissolve the studio, so producers are understandably reluctant to pitch movies to a studio that may not even exist this time next year.
Fox Employees Are Already Leaving For New Jobs
Whether 20th Century Fox continues to exist after the deal or not, one thing is certain: there will be layoffs, potentially numbering in the thousands. In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, one LA-based Fox employee described a “palpable fear” at the company following the announcement of Disney’s acquisition plans in November last year. “We had no definitive information, only gossip and innuendo,” writes THR’s source. “We were told to stay the course, conduct ourselves professionally and proceed as if it was business as usual.“
However, by the start of 2018, many Fox employees were already looking for new jobs, rather than waiting to compete against everyone else after the inevitable mass layoffs. The columnist notes that many are making the move to Netflix (“This has been easy pickings for them“), a direct competitor of Hulu, one of the assets that Disney will have majority ownership of after the deal (Fox owns a 30% stake in Hulu). Hulu itself will likely undergo a radical change after the acquisition, since Disney has been making plans to launch its own streaming service. Hulu could ultimately be used a launching pad for Disney’s service, or simply folded into it, which also creates uncertainty for Hulu’s current employees.
One major company acquiring another rarely happens without casualties. After Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, dozens of employees were laid off from Lucasfilm and LucasArts, creating a ripple effect that led to layoffs at Industrial Light and Magic as well. It’s going to be a rough year for Fox, and we can only hope that those employees who are departing are able to land on their feet.