January 7, 2018

Disney Tightens Its White-Gloved Grip Around the Film Industry’s Neck

Jacob Bier ‘19

Disney is everywhere – movies, television, merchandising, theme parks and more. While Disney is beloved by many, some are beginning to fear the corporation that it has become.
In the past few months, Disney has begun to use its wealth and influence to abuse other companies.
In late September, the Los Angeles Times wrote an article about Disney's connections to the city of Anaheim. Anaheim is home to Disneyland, a pair of theme parks that make millions of dollars per day.
The article discussed Disney’s frequent payments to the government of the city of Anaheim, suggesting that Disney was bribing the city for benefits.
Needless to say, Disney was not happy about the article. The company responded by banning Los Angeles Times critics from screening Disney movies in advance.
Disney faced a lot of backlash for the ban. Hollywood stars and critics’ associations alike spoke out against the decision. On November 7, Disney decided to lift the ban.
These events are extremely frightening, as Disney is punishing a company for exercising the First Amendment right of freedom of press. No company should be able to get away with that.
“Disney is stifling the freedom of the LA Times,” sophomore Ben Gutstein said. “They need to respect the First Amendment.”
One of Disney’s biggest releases of the year will be on December 15, when “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” comes out in theaters. The film is projected to make over $200 million on its opening weekend.
Disney has also decided to use its dictatorial powers with “Star Wars.” The company is forcing theaters to show the film in its largest auditorium for at least four weeks. They are also requiring that the theaters pay Disney 65 percent of ticket revenue, the highest amount that a film studio has ever asked for. If a theater fails to abide by these terms, they must pay Disney an additional five percent of their ticket sales revenue.
Disney’s conditions put small, independent theaters in a predicament. These theaters want to show “Star Wars” because it's a guaranteed moneymaker. However, many of them only have one screen, which means that “Star Wars” would be the only movie playing for four weeks.
These theaters cannot afford to not show Star Wars, but they also cannot afford to pay 70 percent of their ticket sales to Disney. These theaters are responsible for showing many of the independent, Oscar-winning films. In protest, many theaters have refused to show “Star Wars.”
“Disney is taking advantage of the smaller theaters,” junior Sam Lurie said. “They know that Star Wars will be the highest grossing film of the year and by placing these limitations, they are being unfair and unjust to these theaters.”
Even among these controversies, Disney stock is soaring to new heights. Recently, Disney has been involved in negotiations concerning the acquisition of 20th Century Fox.
This news should have movie buffs excited, especially Marvel fans. A merge with 20th Century Fox would mean that the X-Men and Fantastic Four would be in the same universe as The Avengers.
However, a Disney-Fox merger is scary, as well. If it were to happen, Disney would have significant control over the American film industry.

Hopefully Disney will stop causing controversy and resume bringing happiness and quality entertainment to its fans.

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