With multiple delays, production problems, costly reshoots and lackluster trailers, expectations were pretty low for Dark Phoenix, but it still managed to bomb harder than even the most pessimistic outlook could have foreseen. Now the bill has come due and Dark Phoenix’s box office flop was so costly, it actually hurt Disney’s quarterly earnings.
In a press release announcing its earnings for the third quarter of the 2019 fiscal year, there were some positive signs of growth for Disney’s film division, which currently dominates the global box office. Disney’s Studio Entertainment revenue grew by 33%, while profits increased by 13% year over year, attributed in part to the performance of theatrically distributed films like Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.
However, those successes were diminished by losses from the 21st Century Fox business, which Disney now owns following its official acquisition of the studio back in March. The theatrical distribution losses at 21st Century Fox were driven by the performance of Simon Kinberg’s Dark Phoenix. According to the press release, Disney “recorded a film cost impairment” for that X-Men film.
So basically, Dark Phoenix’s box office flop was so financially detrimental, that it actually hurt Disney’s quarterly earnings and had to be addressed. Disney’s earnings weren’t as great as it and its shareholders would have liked, despite the fiscal quarter including the release of Avengers: Endgame, literally the biggest movie of all time, because they were partially offset by the financial burden of Dark Phoenix.
The third quarter was Disney’s first full quarter following its purchase of 21st Century Fox back in March, and it placed the blame for its earnings miss on the integration of that business, with Dark Phoenix being symbolic of that. Disney may have only inherited Dark Phoenix and not produced it, but these are the growing pains that come with that purchase and Fox’s business, good and bad, now affects Disney’s financials.
It was looking like Dark Phoenix could lose a lot of money and that clearly turned out to be the case. After opening in second place to a positively abysmal $32.8 million and suffering a massive second-weekend drop, the film quickly exited theaters and finished its run with $252.3 millionm according to Box Office Mojo. It was also a critical flop with 23% on Rotten Tomatoes and a disappointment to audiences with a “B-“ CinemaScore.
Now, as if that film hasn’t taken enough punishment, it’s the bane of comic book movie fans and Disney stockholders alike. It’s an embarrassing end for Fox’s once great and successful X-Men franchise, but although this phoenix flamed out, the X-Men will one day rise from the ashes in the MCU, so I wouldn’t be too worried about Disney or its shareholders.
Dark Phoenix arrives on home video, rebranded as X-Men: Dark Phoenix (it's worth a shot, I guess), on digital September 3, and Blu-ray and DVD on September 17. For everything coming out later this year theatrically, check out our premiere guide.
Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.
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