The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger recently asserted that Marvel Studios’ recent creative and box office failures are the result of the company diluting its focus and attention by spreading its employees too thin.
Marvel Studios has begun seeing some of its films lose money following the release of Avengers: Endgame. The most recent example is Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The movie only grossed $463.6 million globally. It had a production budget of $200 million meaning it likely needed to gross $500 million to break even. With film studios receiving approximately 60% of box office grosses, Marvel Studios likely lost over $20 million on the picture.
Eternals only grossed $401.7 million on a $200 million production budget. The film likely lost close to $60 million.
Aside from these films that have lost the company movie, many of the recent releases have been poorly received by audiences. Thor: Love and Thunder has an anemic 6.2 rating on IMDb.
Not only has Marvel Studios seen moviegoers sour on their films, their recent foray into television on Disney+ has seen even worse results. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has a 5.2 rating on IMDb.
With box office losses now a reality and moviegoers and audiences not looking as favorably on recent Marvel Cinematic Universe releases, Iger was asked by CNBC’s David Faber what the problem was not just at Marvel Studios, but at Disney at-large.
He said, “Is there a problem though at Disney Animation? Is the loss of John Lasseter years ago been a blow that you haven’t been able to recover from?”
Iger answered, “Well, first of all, the studio and its movie assets are number one at the global box office so far. That said we are extremely realistic and I’m very objective about that business. There have been some disappointments. We would have liked some of our more recent releases to have performed better.”
“It’s reflective not a problem from a personnel perspective, but I think in our zeal basically grow our content significantly to serve mostly our streaming offerings we ended up taxing our people way beyond, in terms of their time and their focus, way beyond where they had been,” he explained.
“Marvel’s a great example of that,” he noted. “They had not been in the TV business at any significant level. Not only did they increase their movie output, but they ended up making a number of television series.”
“And frankly, it diluted focus and attention. And I think you are seeing that is more the cause than anything else,” he stated.
After addressing some other questions specifically about Pixar and the health of that studio, Iger then reiterated that he plans to cut the amount of content that will be produced by Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm.
When asked if he would pull back, he bluntly responded, “Yes. You pull back not just to focus, but it’s also part of our cost containment initiative, spending less. Spending less on what we make and making less.”
Iger previously indicated the company would cut back on the amount of Marvel and Star Wars content they would be creating as well as cutting the costs of the movies and TV shows during an appearance at a Morgan Stanley Conference back in March.
The Hollywood Reporter noted that Iger said, “What we have to look at at Marvel is not necessarily the volume of Marvel storytelling, but how many times we go back to the well on certain characters.”
He elaborated, “Sequels typically work well for us, but do you need a third or a fourth, for instance? Or is it time to turn to other characters? There’s nothing in any way inherently off in terms of the Marvel brand. I think we just have to look at what characters and stories we are mining.”
Iger then declared, “And if you look at the trajectory of Marvel over the next five years, you’ll see a lot of newness.”
He added, “Now, we’re going to turn back to the Avengers franchise, but with a whole set of different Avengers, as an example.”
Not only did Iger detail that there might not be as many Marvel franchise films in the works, but he indicated that the company at-large has a quality problem.
He said, “You know, there’s so much consumer choice right now, and it comes back to, What is differentiated? That’s one thing obviously we have talked about, is those brands: Star Wars, Marvel and Disney and Pixar, for instance. But quality is also a differentiator.”
“I think HBO proved that well, you know, in their halcyon days when high-quality programming made a big difference, and not volume,” Iger asserted. “And because the streaming platforms require so much volume, one has to question whether that’s the right direction to go, or if you can be more curated, more — I used the word ‘judicious’ a few times — but I guess, more picky about what you’re making, and to concentrate on quality and not volume.”
He also made similar remarks during the company’s Q1 FY23 Earnings Results call while answering a question from Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson. He said, “In additionally we are going to lean more into our franchises, our core franchises, and our brands. I talked about curation in general entertainment. We have to be better at curating the Disney, and the Pixar, and the Marvel, and the Star Wars of it all.”
“And, of course, reduce costs on everything that we make. While we are extremely proud of what’s on the screen, it’s gotten to a point where it’s extraordinarily expensive. We want all the quality. We want the quality on the screen, but we have to look at what they cost us,” he added.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige also confirmed back in February in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the company would be cutting the amount of TV shows and movies they were producing as well as trimming costs on the ones they will make.
He said, “We want Marvel Studios and the MCU projects to really stand out and stand above. So, people will see that as we get further into Phase 5 and 6. The pace at which we’re putting out the Disney+ shows will change so they can each get a chance to shine.”
When asked if he would be spacing them out or putting out fewer shows per year, he responded, “Both, I think.”
Later in the interview he would reveal, “I think when we are doing about eight projects a year — and again, I said this is going to shift a little bit — they all have to be different. They all have to stand apart and stand alone and be different from one another.”
What do you make of Iger’s explanation for why moviegoers are not engaging with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as they did in the past?