The incorporation of 21st Century Fox The Disney emporium has been the subject of controversy since the mouse announced the transaction last December 2017. Much has been said about its interest in expanding its catalog with titles and characters of high impact among audiences, the possibilities that franchises will open in its theme parks, as well as his desire to try his luck with independent cinema in an effort to win his first Oscar for Best Picture and stop being the only one major that it has never obtained this recognition.
There are so many business options that it’s easy to forget that Disney has also acquired a veritable piece of movie history. The most ironic thing is that it all started with a fusion between Fox and Twentieth Century, in an unprecedented operation in the then nascent North American industry.
The first was founded by William Fox in 1915, who got into the show chain business and soon jumped into production. His first expansion plans were hampered by conflicts of interest from his competitors, which was decisive for the Crac of 29 to bankrupt him. In just a few years, his studio laid the foundations with a spectacular cinema, which debuted the first time women fatale in the figure of Theda Bara and made the first explorations of talkies, in an intense career that was eventually won by Warner Bros. The second was born as an independent studio founded by Joseph Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck, and directly linked to United Artists. This link ended after a series of shareholder disputes, which led to the search for a new distributor. This is how, in 1935, 20th Century Fox was born..
The results were not long in coming, because with a much lower percentage of films than its competitors, the young studio ended up becoming a recurring guest for the Academy Award with titles such as In Old Chicago (1937), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940) being the first of the alliance to compete for the maximum statuette. Consolidation came in 1942 with the Oscar for Best Picture of How green was my valley (1942) directed by the mythical John Ford. And this was just the beginning.
Molding the industry
The high quality of its projects and the increase in audience during World War II helped position 20th Century Fox as the third most profitable studio of the time. The situation changed a few years later, as the number of attendees decreased with the culmination of the war and the popularization of television, forcing him to take very serious risks in search of solutions. It’s easy to judge many of these decisions in hindsight, but even the most controversial ones were instrumental in building his legacy and thus forging the history of the industry.
His efforts to advance three-dimensionality with the CinemaScope have been fundamental for Avatar (2009); the headaches caused by the tortuous production of Cleopatra (1963) they prepared him for the no less challenging Titanic (1997); the glories of The rebellious novice (1965) influenced the revival of the musical genre with red Mill (2001); the revolutionary science fiction of The fantastic trip (1966) and Planet of the Apes (1968) can be traced back to Alien (1979); the unusual exploration of vertical spaces seen in Hell in the tower (1974) was inherited by Hard to Kill (1988).
To this we add that the contemporary entertainment industry would be radically different if Fox had not authorized the making of Star Wars (1977) and the agreement with which George Lucas retained the rights to the franchise and its merchandising; if its television division hadn’t seen the enormous potential of The Simpson (1989) after his debut in The Tracey Ullman Show; or if the study had not opened the doors marvelitas with X-Men (2000), which also marked the debut of Kevin Cowardly in the world of superheroes.
A new age
The addition of 21st Century Fox to the Disney emporium has been controversial since the transaction was announced last December 2017, as it is feared that it will have a primarily negative impact on the industry. The purchase will mark the closure of divisions and massive layoffs as already happened with Fox 2000; Disney’s impressive release schedule could become increasingly saturated; the emporium could impose new distribution conditions with the exhibiting chains; while its dominance could force the great actors to commit to several films or even to sign exclusive contracts. More worrisome is the nervousness aroused by the possibility that the dominance of this cinematographic giant violates the quality standards of cinema.
However, lhe new Disney expansion could also be beneficial to the industry. The excess of properties should lead to an adjustment in the internal calendar to avoid competition between their own titles, which would reduce the overexploitation of franchises such as Star Wars, Marvel or adaptations live-action of the animated classics. This would result in longer production times and a commitment to creating higher quality stories for audiences. Not satisfied with it, the other majors They will also have to change their strategy with more modest and risky projects, but of high quality such as A place in silencio (2018), The favourite (2018) the U.S (2019), to name a few. Needless to say, this would not attack their own franchises as Fast and Furious O James Bond.
Finally, it is important to remember that cinema is an industry in constant motion. The calls “Big Five”, Which gave celluloid so much glory during the Golden Age of Hollywood, is in danger before the fall of its third member, in a trend that began in 1959 with the disappearance of RKO and continued in 1986 with the sale of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. At the moment, only Paramount and Warner they are still standing. For their part, the so-called “Little Three“Of the time, they have also undergone changes, since Universal and Columbia consolidated among the new titans, while United Artists It became extinct in 1981.
More recently, the “Big Six“Of the contemporary era have ceased to be so to become the new”Big Five”, A group made up of Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner. Despite its stability, its hegemony is in continuous risk due to the success of independent production companies and the opportunities of the streaming. The only certainty is that nothing is written, as history tells us that the current dominance does not guarantee long-term survival. In the end, and as it should be, hethe public always has the last word.
Luis Miguel Cruz Someday I will join the X-Men, the Rebel Alliance, or the Night’s Watch. Proud member of Cine PREMIERE since 2008.
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20th Century Fox: a legacy that defined the direction of cinema