Amid a week of massive layoffs at Disney, the leadership team of its film arm gathered in Las Vegas on April 26 to tout its successes and upcoming slate of films to a crowd of theatre owners and exhibitors.
The Walt Disney Company presentation, with exclusive new footage from films like ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’, ‘Elemental’, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’, is part of the CinemaCon convention. At the weeklong trade conference, major Hollywood studios put on splashy presentations to assure the people who play their movies, from the biggest chains like AMC to single-screen independent theaters, that they have the content to keep audiences buying movie tickets.
Alan Bergman, the co-chair of Disney Entertainment, took the stage inside the Colosseum theater at Caesars Palace first.
“I wanted to come and personally thank you for your support,” Bergman said. “I know how difficult it’s been over the past few years and its great that the business is finally coming back.”
Disney has been the top-grossing studio globally every year since 2016. Last year the company released four of the 10 top-grossing movies domestically. Those four movies — ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’, ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’, ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ and ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ — accounted for 27 per cent of the domestic box office share. Globally, ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ grossed over $2.3 billion (Dh8.45 billion) to become the third most successful film of all time.
The company is undergoing layoffs this week, through Thursday, in its second round this year. Disney CEO Bob Iger said in February that the company was going to cut about 7,000 jobs as part of an ambitious companywide cost-savings plan and “strategic reorganization.” The job cuts amount to about 3% of the entertainment giant’s global workforce and are part of a targeted $5.5 billion (Dh20.20 billion) cost savings across the Burbank-based company.
In Las Vegas, Tony Chambers, head of theatrical distribution, said Disney has always — pre-, during and post-pandemic — “delivered a fantastic array of stories for your theaters and our upcoming slate is no exception.”
This year will mark the first time since 2019 that Disney will have theatrical releases for films from all seven of its production studios: 20th Century, Lucasfilm, Marvel, Disney, Pixar, Disney Animation and Searchlight.
Still to come in 2023 is a theme park-ride movie with Justin Simien’s ‘Haunted Mansion’ (July 28) starring Danny DeVito and Owen Wilson, a live-action ‘Little Mermaid’ (May 26), a new Indiana Jones film, Marvel releases in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ (May 5) and ‘The Marvels’, a Disney Animation musical ‘Wish’ with Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine, and Pixar original ‘Elemental’ (June 16).
Several recent Pixar titles were sent straight to Disney+ during the pandemic, including ‘Soul’, ‘Luca’, and ‘Turning Red’. On Wednesday, Disney gave ‘Elemental’, a theatrical-first release (and a Cannes film festival premiere), a meaty showcase, debuting 20 minutes in 3D from the film about a city where all the elements live together but separately.
Disney’s CinemaCon presentations often stick to the films, not the celebrities, but this year they had a few surprises in store: Harrison Ford and Melissa McCarthy.
Ford, in a pre-recorded video message, introduced an exciting chase scene from ‘Indiana Jones 5’.
“Playing Indiana Jones over the years has meant the world to me,” Ford said. “We’re thrilled for everyone to experience out film on the biggest and best screens June 30.”
‘Indiana Jones’ is also having its world debut at Cannes next month.
McCarthy, who voices Ursula in ‘The Little Mermaid’ was in person to introduce a clip of her singing ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’.
“Ursula is kind of everything. She’s dishy. She’s a conniving broad,” McCarthy said. “Maybe that’s why I relate.”
Other upcoming releases include Kenneth Branagh’s ‘A Haunting in Venice’ (September 15), ‘The Boogeyman’ (June 2) and the sci-fi drama ‘The Creator’ (Sept. 29), with John David Washington, from 20th Century Studios.
Searchlight has the loving satire ‘Theater Camp’ (July 14), and Taika Waititi’s comedic soccer film ‘Next Goal Wins’ (November 17), based on the story of a Dutch American coach (played by Michael Fassbender) who is sent to coach the struggling American Samoa national football team. The trailer had the audience laughing and clapping.
Chambers did not mention ‘Magazine Dreams’, with Jonathan Majors, which earlier this year was set for release on December 8 year after its successful Sundance debut. Majors, who is also the new main villain of the Marvel world, Kang, was arrested in March on an assault charge. A lawyer for Majors denied any wrongdoing by the actor.