Heads roll at Fox after Disney takeover closes
Andrew Cripps, Chris Aronson, Heather Phillips, Mike Dunn and Greg Meidel are among the first wave of senior layoffs at 20th Century Fox following the Walt Disney Co’s $US71.3 billion purchase of Fox’s crown jewels.
A former executive at Paramount, IMAX and United International Pictures, the highly regarded Cripps was hired as Fox’s international theatrical distribution president in 2017.
During his reign the home runs in international markets included Bohemian Rhapsody ($663.7 million), The Greatest Showman ($260.6 million), Deadpool 2 ($460.4 million), Murder on the Orient Express ($250 million) and The Kingsman: The Golden Circle ($310.7 million).
While the $170 million James Cameron production Alita: Battle Angel has struggled in the US, taking $81 million, the Cripps-led international team was far more effective, generating $312.2 million.
Aronson was the president of domestic distribution, Phillips was executive VP and head of domestic publicity, Dunn was president of product strategy and consumer business development and Meidel was president of Twentieth Television.
Among the other high-level casualties are Pam Levine, worldwide theatrical marketing president, Kevin Campbell, co-president of worldwide theatrical marketing, and Tony Sella, chief content officer.
Cripps joined IMAX in 2012 as president of the large-screen company’s operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa after serving as president of Paramount Pictures International from 2007. Before that he was president of UIP.
There is no word yet of layoffs among Fox’s Australian theatrical, home entertainment and TV sales divisions or who will move across to Disney Studios’ Australian operations headed by Jo Bladen.
After the first round of blood-letting at Fox, Deadline.com predicts as many as 5,000 people may lose their jobs as the studio strives to meets its stated goal of $2 billion in cost savings.
Deadline posed the question: “How will that impact the executives and producers who’ve been putting together movie slates under the Fox label for years?”
The $71.3 billion deal closed on Tuesday US time. Disney has acquired 20th Century Fox, FX, National Geographic Partners, Fox Networks Group International, Star India and Fox’s interests in Hulu, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.
Disney is retaining Fox vice chairman Emma Watts, Fox Family president Vanessa Morrison and Fox Searchlight co-heads Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley, which will ensure continuity of the kind of films Disney no longer makes.
In a surprise move, Disney is closing the Fox 2000 label, which has been responsible for such middle-budget hits as Hidden Figures, The Fault In Our Stars, The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me, Love, Simon and The Hate U Give. It is not clear whether Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler will stay on as a producer.
Still: It is fair to ask whether Disney has the expertise and smarts to fully exploit in domestic and international markets original films of the ilk of Bohemian Rhapsody, The Greatest Showman and The Shape of Water.
It’s also fair to say that until Captain Marvel, Disney went through a lean patch with under-performers The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, A Wrinkle in Time and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Lachlan Murdoch is chairman and CEO of Fox Corp, which controls the Fox broadcast network, FX Networks, Fox Sports, a portfolio of local TV stations, the MyNetworkTV programming block, Fox News, Fox Business Channel and sports cable networks FS1 and FS2.
Rupert Murdoch continues as executive chairman of News Corp and co-chairman of Fox Corp and is now a major Disney shareholder.