By Zack Sharf
Digital News Director
Disney CEO Bob Iger is citing the studio’s output increase for Disney+ as one reason for “some disappointments” as of late. Speaking to CNBC’s David Faber at the Sun Valley Conference, Iger admitted the studio screwed with audience expectations by offering up so much streaming content. The negative impact of that has been commercial disappointments in theaters, be it “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” not even reaching $500 million worldwide or disappointing openings for summer tentpoles “Elemental” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”
“There have been some disappointments. We would have liked some of our more recent releases to perform better,” Iger said. “It’s reflective not as a problem from a personnel perspective, but I think in our zeal to basically grow our content significantly to serve mostly our streaming offerings, we ended up taxing our people way beyond — in terms of their time and their focus — way beyond where they had been.”
“Marvel’s a great example of that,” Iger added. “They had not been in the TV business at any significant level. Not only did they increase their movie output, but they ended up making a number of television series, and frankly, it diluted focus and attention. That is, I think, more of the cause than anything.”
Addressing the poor box office performance of Pixar’s “Elemental,” Iger cited the studio’s decision to put three Pixar movies on Disney+ in a row during the pandemic. “Soul,” “Luca” and “Turning Red” all skipped theaters and went straight to streaming. “Lightyear” and “Elemental,” the two Pixar films that exclusively opened in theaters afterwards, flopped.
“There were three Pixar releases in a row that went direct to streaming, in part because of — mostly because of COVID,” Iger said. “And I think that may have created an expectation in the audience that they’re going to eventually be on streaming and probably quickly, and there wasn’t an urgency. And then I think there was some, I think you’d have to agree that there were some creative misses, as well.”
Pete Docter, Pixar’s creative chief officer, shared a similar sentiment with Variety last month. He called the studio’s decision to put three Pixar films on Disney+ in a row “a mixed blessing because we’ve trained audiences that these films will be available for you on Disney+. And it’s more expensive for a family of four to go to a theater when they know they can wait and it’ll come out on the platform.”
Back in March following the box office flop of “Quantumania,” Iger touted “newness” as something the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs in order to re-strengthen its box office appeal.
“Sequels typically worked well for us,” Iger said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “Do you need a third and a fourth, for instance? Or is it time to turn to other characters?”
“There’s nothing in any way inherently off in terms of the Marvel brand,” Iger added at the time. “I think we just have to look at what characters and stories we’re mining, and you look at the trajectory of Marvel over the next five years, you’ll see a lot of newness. We’re going to turn back to the Avengers franchise, but with a whole different set of Avengers.”
Disney’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and “Elemental” are still playing in theaters nationwide.
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