Disney CEO Bob Iger has recognized a decline in the quality of the company's film output since the end of the pandemic, leading to a strategic shift in Disney’s approach to movie production. This acknowledgment and subsequent strategy change come as Disney faces challenges in generating positive operating income in its "Content Sales/Licensing and Other" business unit, which includes theatrical releases.
Iger's new mandate involves reducing the number of films Disney produces, echoing a similar strategy he implemented when he first became CEO in 2005. This decision followed a period of underperforming movies, leading to job cuts and a halving of Disney's annual movie production. Key to the company's turnaround at that time was the acquisition of Pixar, which brought a fresh infusion of quality storytelling and successful movies.
Looking ahead to 2024, Disney plans to release fewer films but with potentially higher impact, including highly anticipated titles like “Deadpool 3,” “Inside Out 2,” and “Mufasa: The Lion King.” This strategy aims to focus on quality over quantity, a shift from the recent approach of releasing numerous titles to populate Disney+ with new content.
The pressure is on for Disney to deliver hits, as recent box office performances have been mixed. Films like "Lightyear" and "Strange World" underperformed, while others like “The Haunted Mansion” contributed to operating losses in Disney's content division. Despite some successes, Disney has not seen a movie gross over $1 billion since 2019, excluding last year's "Avatar: The Way of Water," which was part of the 21st Century Fox acquisition.
Disney's studio business, including theatrical releases and content sales to other platforms, has been struggling. The most recent fiscal reports show operating income losses, highlighting the need for a strategic pivot in content creation.
With Iger back at the helm, the focus is on returning to the studio's pre-pandemic level of success. The upcoming town hall meeting with Iger and division heads will likely address these issues and outline future strategies. As Disney targets 2025 to name Iger's successor, the performance of the studio division under Alan Bergman's leadership will be crucial. Bergman's track record includes several hits, but he faces the challenge of steering Disney back to its esteemed position in the movie industry amidst changing market dynamics and consumer preferences.