We are forever closer to the famed Disney merger with 21st Century Fox, with estimates up to 72 billion dollars that Disney is willing to spend on Fox’s entertainment assets. Fans worldwide have been frothing at the mouth at the possibility of Marvel characters returning home. The merger between Fox and Disney would create the possibility of the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool interacting with the Avengers. Now for every dream match up and fantastic possibilities the merger brings, underneath it all lays another example of the bleak monopolising of Hollywood and modern day media.
Hollywood in its inception has been run by a small number of big studios. During the golden age of Hollywood (1930-1950’s) there were the famous ‘big eight’ studios that created the majority of the American cinematic output. Now it has been reduced to 6; Disney, 21st Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Warner Brothers. With Disney purchasing Fox’s entertainment asset it would have a 35% market share and in the world of cinema that is too much to fathom.
[https://themediastudentsblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/media-ownership/] A visual representation of few media studios controlling large portions of western media.
Monopolising has blighted cinema ever since its inception and the Disney/Fox merger seems to add to the issue. Giant media conglomerates controlling huge slices of influential media spells trouble of control and bias. To put it plainly a handful of people control and regulate the content of modern day western media. If this merger is completed it will only open the door for more mergers. It seems highly speculative to theorise that this number of people that control media could whittle down to one or two to result in some sort of 1984 dystopia. However in the depths of a information age where we are constantly being fed by constant streams of entertainment and news, the controllers of that content should be held under a more stringent microscope than before. Facebook has been recently held accountable for the control of our data and information and it is time that mergers like these should be investigated to a much more strict regulation. Our entertainment should be coming from a melting pot of multiple cultures not 5 narrow streams of political and personal bias. This merger is a step backwards in representation and variation.
The lack of competition also facilitates comfortable, mindless popcorn fodder. One of the biggest criticisms of the golden age of Hollywood was that the big eight were just pumping out paint by number films that would be mediocre successes. This is one of the many reasons why that period crashed and burned. The mundanity of American cinema at the time muddied the waters between consumer and creator. In it’s ashes it led to revolutionary films such as Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Night of the Living Dead and Bonnie and Clyde being made. One may see the current squeezing of competition a good thing to hopefully lead to a backlash but the grip on modern day pop culture is tighter than ever before.
(Taxi Driver 1976, a key film in New Hollywood)
When famed directors such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg struggle to get their movies financed and Quentin Tarantino getting block-booked against his own film, one has to question the power of these studios. It is forever harder for smaller and experimental studios to release their films in the lions pit of worldwide film distribution. When there is less chairs available at the table where do upcoming and new directors sit? Netflix? Amazon Prime? This maybe a temporary solution but what company is pulling all of their films from these streaming services and aiming to create their own streaming service? That’s right! the house that Mickey built, Disney.
Competition creates quality, without it we would of never got the brilliant Deadpool and one of the greatest superhero films of all time, Logan. We would of never got Wonder Woman and even though Batman vs Superman wasn’t that great, at least it was different. The monopolising of film studios could end up one of three ways;
1. Audiences seeking alternative media with online streaming services leading to a fleeting box office returns.
2. The constant repetition of cinema is enough to satisfy audience and lead to a monotony and repetition of style and substance or
3. it could lead to small studios conflicting the humongous influence of the big studios.
I hope for the latter, a fresh, energised and revived Hollywood is what is needed. The superhero bubble will burst and hopefully it will create new and interesting creators; a new Spielberg, Cameron, Scorsese, Bigelow or Romero. This merger may create the most bland and repetitive period of Hollywood but hopefully will result in a backlash of interesting content.
Also another issue about this merger is one issue that has been swept under the carpet lately, the loss of jobs. Mainly because this is not relevant for the general moviegoer but this merger will get rid of thousands of jobs and in an industry that is already known for its competitive nature when it comes to employment, it is horrible to see such an execution of jobs. How can a merger, an act of compromise and sale which theoretically would mean both sides would win, end up with a huge reduction of jobs. This merger at its core was to satisfy the needs of the people at the top and the old adage of the crap always falling to the bottom of the hill is true. Not to sound anarchist but this is another example of the rich getting richer and the poorer getting poorer. The people that will lose out of this the most is the people that are paid the least.
To answer any hypocrisy, yes I am a fan of superhero films, Star Wars and pretty much most franchises. I am a little excited for the possibility of the X-Men being in the same film as the Avengers. However, I do not want to sacrifice competition, variety and jobs for it. Logan and Deadpool worked because it wasn’t Marvel. The Fox/Disney merger may sound like the best thing right now but the long term ramifications of this may be more harmful than good. If that is the case, remember that it is the audience, us, that has the power.