Recent reports of discussions between Walt Disney Co. and 21st Century Fox over the sale of some of Fox’s media holdings – which include the FX network and the 20th Century Fox film division – ignited a flurry of discussion online over the potential of such a sale. Those discussions were short lived though, as almost immediately it was announced that those talks, which were originally considered “on-again-off-again,” were off-again.
The original CNBC report stated that the talks began due to 21st Century Fox’s plans to scale back their media empire with a more solid focus on news, sports and broadcast TV, something Disney was eager to get behind with their struggling TV efforts of late. The talks reportedly stalled due to the contested price of the sale and other key terms that the companies were unable to come to an agreement on, but sources say the companies could still be open to reigniting discussions in the future. The fact that the discussion alone resulted in both companies rise in stock prices – with Fox getting a 5% bump and Disney 1% – is sure to become a factor in further discussions.
This announcement has been a big issue for fans as Fox has held the rights to a number of valuable Marvel properties for years – most notably the X-Men and Fantastic Four universe of characters – which has proven to be a difficult situation over the years for Marvel Studios. Following Marvel’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the ’90s, the company was forced to sell off a number of it’s more popular character’s film rights, which were mostly laying dormant following the critical failure of Howard the Duck. This left characters like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Blade, Hulk, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four all residing with different studios.
It was after the creation of the Marvel Studios banner and the launch of the MCU with Iron Man in 2008 that fans really started to see the difficulties with these various character rights. Marvel Studios was left in control of what was at the time considered B-level heroes like Iron Man and Thor, though we’ve obviously seen the success these characters have experienced without the bigger stars like Spider-Man and the X-Men casting their shadows. As the MCU grew exponentially and gave characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man their own places to shine in the MCU, fans began to dream of a complete cinematic universe where the Avengers could crossover with the X-Men, especially after characters like Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and Blade returned following Fox’s decision to allow the characters to return to Marvel Studios instead of going forth with their own new takes on them.
Sony ended up making a deal with Marvel Studios, instead of straight up selling the Spider-Man rights back to the company, which resulted in a rebooted Peter Parker in the MCU, something Marvel had been trying to accomplish for a while. The main holdout over all of these years has definitely been Fox, whose X-Men films have remained successful money-earners for the company, despite some quality problems with the films themselves. The recent successes of films like Logan and Deadpool made it seem like Fox wasn’t going to let go of these rights anytime soon, though the recent talks and restructuring at 21st Century Fox have us rethinking that.
So what would the sale of these properties mean to fans, and to Disney? As it relates to Lucasfilm and the Star Wars properties Disney purchased a few years ago, it would mean that Disney would own the distribution of the original Star Wars trilogy, which is still tied up with 20th Century Fox. If we’re just looking at it from a comic perspective, it would mean the return of the Fantastic Four and X-Men franchises to Marvel Studios, something fans have been hoping would happen for years. After the failure of the Fantastic Four franchises to make a lasting impact, especially following the studio cuts and reshoots that killed Josh Trank’s Fant4stic, it seemed like fans might actually get to see the first family of comics return to the company that created them. The X-Men franchise has experienced hits and misses over the years, and is set to experience a huge change in direction over the next few years as new properties develop, so talks couldn’t be coming at a better time for the respective franchises.
With the close of the talks us fans are left waiting with hope that we could still one day see the return of some of Marvel’s heavy hitters to the studio that brought us the MCU, but until then, we can still look forward to new Fox releases like the upcoming The New Mutants and Deadpool 2.
Images: Marvel Studios, Fox