Disney’s Bob Iger talks recent box office outcomes, studio output
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Disney’s Bob Iger talks recent box office outcomes, studio output

Bob Iger recently talked candidly about some of Disney’s lackluster box office performances and the entertainment giant’s output.

Disney's Bob Iger talks recent box office outcomes, studio output
Disney’s Bob Iger talks recent box office outcomes, studio output

The Disney CEO did so at the DealBook summit, put on last week by The New York Times, receiving a question about the Burbank-based company seeing several of its silver screen releases this year seemingly put up box office figures that some have characterized as disappointing. He pointed to factors such as the business changing and the quality of some of the films. 

“I think we have conditioned the audience to expect that these films will be on streaming platforms relatively quickly and that the experience of accessing and watching them in the home is better than it ever was,” Iger told DealBook editor-at-large Aaron Ross Sorkin. “So I think the bar is now raised in terms of quality about what gets people out of their homes into movie theaters. Some of it is just being part of basically the social wave.”

“In our particular case, and specifically about some of those films, they were not as good, they were not as high in quality – not every one that you mentioned – as some of their predecessors, our films, as they should have been, particularly in this environment,” he continued.

Sorkin specifically mentioned three films by name – “The Marvels,” “Wish” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” During their domestic opening weekends, those films saw about $46.1 million, $19.7 million and $60.4 million, respectively, according to IMDb’s Box Office Mojo.

For “The Marvels,” filming of the “Captain Marvel” follow-up took place during the pandemic and did not have “as much supervision on set, so to speak,” the Disney CEO said.

“At the same time, we increased our output tremendously to feed the streaming platforms – too much, by the way,” Iger added, a move he called a “definite mistake.”

“Quality needs attention to deliver quality. It doesn’t happen by accident. Quantity, in our case, diluted quality, and Marvel suffered greatly from that,” the Disney CEO said. 

That sentiment on quantity versus quality has previously been voiced by Iger, who has also called for a more trimmed down slate.

Iger also noted to Sorkin that Disney has “had the best performance in the business” for many years, something that set a high bar for the company. The entertainment giant viewed films with ticket sales below $1 billion as disappointing at one point in the past in what Iger called an “unbelievably high standard” and needs to “get more realistic,” according to the Disney CEO.

While the company has put out “too many” sequels, Iger said he “do[esn’t] want to apologize” for making them since some have performed “extraordinarily well.”

“You have to have a reason to make it beyond commerce. There has to be an artistic reason to make it,” he said, adding the company will now “only greenlight a sequel if we believe the story that the creators want to tell is worth it.”

Iger said output should consist of a combination of original films and franchise content. On the sequel side, the company has “Frozen,” “Toy Story” and “Inside Out” films in the pipeline.

Disney’s film studios are a “top priority,” Iger also said at DealBook in a reiteration of a stance he has previously voiced. 

Iger and the company have identified making output and economics-related improvements at its film studios as one of four “key building opportunities” on more than one occasion in the past, including during Disney’s most recent earnings call.

Disney’s Entertainment segment, where its film studios, direct-to-consumer, linear networks and content sales fall, generated $9.5 billion in revenues in the fourth quarter, an increase of 2% year-over- year. It moved from an operating loss of $608 million in 2022’s fourth quarter to an operating income of $236 million in this year’s fourth quarter.

The other three focus areas for Disney include hitting “sustained” profitability in its streaming business, “turbocharging” growth in its Experiences segment and turning ESPN into a major digital sports platform.

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