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Screwed By The Network / Disney Films

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    Walt Disney Studios 
  • In re-releases, Aladdin has been this. The remaster aiming for IMAX was released direct to the DVD Platinum Edition after the one for The Lion King failed to meet expectations, and a 3D conversion became the Blu-ray 3D Diamond Edition (although the movie never had a release date, unlike the one for The Little Mermaid, whose theatrical rerelease was cancelled), followed by Disney temporarily dropping support of Blu-ray 3D in North America the next year. It would eventually see the shortest gap between re-releases—nearly four years—out of all Disney films, with the 4K Signature Edition coming out so soon likely to promote the home media release of its Live-Action Adaptation, but that's still small consolation for a Renaissance film that didn't get the update perks its contemporaries (especially the film that came before and the film that came after) received.
  • According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney's purchase of both Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm, as well as the ousting of then-studio chairman Dick Cook, was a motivation for DreamWorks leaving Disney for Universal. By the time Disney began to focus more on tentpole films following the purchases, DreamWorks' film slate was drastically cut (although financial troubles within DreamWorks were also to blame), and many DreamWorks films under the deal were disappointments at the box office even if they were critical successes (with Bridge of Spies being an example). DreamWorks head Steven Spielberg later had a falling out with Disney regarding their treatment of his studio and decided to reorganize it, heading back to his long-time home at Universalnote  and bringing both DreamWorks and Amblin Entertainment full circle.
    • Fright Night (2011): While the film still managed to be a moderate box-office success, there wasn't much faith in it between execs - limited releases in mid-August, very small marketing campaign, no screening for critics in many countries... Especially jarring since the film earned most of its revenue from foreign markets, where it was almost completely neglected.
    • The above fallout between Disney and Spielberg may have also played a role in the failures of The BFG, Spielberg's first (and possibly only) effort with Disney and the penultimate film of DreamWorks' deal with Disney, and The Light Between Oceans, the last film of the deal. For the former, Disney barely promoted the movie aside from trailers and TV spots and chose to make more bets on Finding Dory, which had the biggest opening for an animated film in years. Since The BFG didn't look like anything Disney would want to make a franchise out of, they dumped its release date two weeks after Finding Dory's release, with disastrous consequences at the box office. Meanwhile, the latter also suffered from lax promotion (not to mention mediocre reviews) and was dumped to just before Labor Day weekend, already a traditionally-poor month. The film grossed just $12 million against a $20 million budget domestically, with international gross just barely helping recoup its budget.
  • In Japan, Inside Out was released on the same day as Hero 2 and had competition in the form of the critically-acclaimed The Boy and The Beast. Due to this, it became Pixar's second lowest-grossing film in Japan, only beaten by Brave, which was beaten by a Pokémon film. The ironic part? Inside Out made more money than the Pokémon film that came out that same weekend, although that could be in part due to its declining popularity in the country thanks to Yo Kai Watch. It later became popular and knocked the Pokémon film out of the top ten on its third weekend, and has already made more money than Annie did in its entire run.
  • Max Keeble's Big Move bombed because it was released a few weeks after September 11th, limiting the amount of advertising the movie got as most television stations note  during this time period pulled their advertising and showed PSAs in the place of regular advertisements.
  • Miramax Films (under Disney's watch) managed to run Pokémon: The Series' theatrical films in the States to the ground. After Pokémon 3 failed to meet Warner Bros.' financial expectations, the contract with Warner lapsed and the rights were passed on to Miramax, then owned by Disney. Apparently, Miramax had no interest in the Pokémon series and sabotaged the U.S. releases of Pokémon 4Ever and Pokémon Heroes respectively. First they gave the films an extremely small advertising campaign, released them at less than 300 theaters (compared to Warner's films, which were released in more than or around 3,000 theaters) and pulled them from the theaters after two months. The end result was that both films failed to gross more than $10 million at the box office, with Heroes failing to reach the $1 million mark. As a result, Pokémon: Jirachi: Wish Maker and Pokémon: Destiny Deoxys were made exclusively direct-to-video before Disney's license expired, after which Pokémon USA permanently assumed the rights to the entire anime. It would take thirteen years for The Pokémon Company to decide to give worldwide theatrical distribution another chance, partnering up with Legendary Pictures for a live-action Pokémon movie, but rather than expand the anime's story or start a new live-action Pokémon universe, the trio decided to go a new direction: focusing entirely on Pikachu and his escapades and base it on the spin-off Detective Pikachu, which had not been released outside Japan at that point. Ironically, Warner Bros. handled distribution of this film (after Universal broke off from their deal with Legendary), marking the first time in 18 years the studio distributed a Pokémon film.
    • Disney made it even worse with Pokémon Heroes in Brazil, as they purchased the rights but never made any intent for a home release, or any at all, aside from airing the movie twice on Jetix in 2007. At least fans recorded that and made sure to keep it online.
  • When the opening box office weekend for The Rescuers Down Under didn't live up to expectations, studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg pulled the plug on the promotional campaign. It also didn't help that the movie competed against Home Alone (that said, The Rescuers Down Under got better reviews than Home Alone).
  • Sleeping Beauty almost made a return to theaters in Spring 1993, with a trailer even appearing on the 1992 Beauty and the Beast VHS. However, the failure of Pinocchio's Summer 1992 theatrical re-release convinced Disney that most of the public didn't feel interested in visiting cinemas just to watch a movie they either already owned on video or could borrow from someone else. Consequently, this engagement of Sleeping Beauty underwent a two-year delay, then played in only a few theaters.
  • Disney had a bad case of treating Studio Ghibli films this way. First, they were supposed to release Castle in the Sky and Kiki's Delivery Service into theaters, but they both wound up being released Direct to Video instead. It's also worth noting that the home video release of Castle In The Sky was delayed constantly for five years before it eventually got released. Then, the films they did put into theaters (save for The Secret World of Arrietty) were only released in a handful of theaters. This lead to Disney dropping their partnership with Studio Ghibli and instead releasing their films through GKIDS starting with From Up on Poppy Hill.
  • Terry Jones' The Wind in the Willows barely got a theatrical release by Disney in the States after its poor box office in the UK. This was despite the New York Times’ glowing review and Variety lashing out against the distributors for burying a terrific film. According to Jones:
    "Disney had always been reluctant to do much with it, they didn’t get the idea of live-action cartoon and wanted to put it straight out on video. I was doing a documentary in New York at the time and remember getting a phone call saying my film was actually playing at a cinema in Times Square. So I rushed down there only to discover it was showing at one of those seedy little porno theatres. Nevertheless I shot off to buy an instant camera just so I could get a photo of its name up in lights on the awning outside, but by the time I got back they’d taken it down again. That’s how long it ran for."
  • Disney released Winnie the Pooh in the US on the same weekend as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II (the highly-anticipated Grand Finale to that franchise) with virtually no marketing to support the film. The reason for the studio's bleak outlook on the film was actually due to its disappointing international numbers (where the film flopped against Rio and Hop) and because other Pooh movies haven't fared well theatrically, but have done nicely on DVD. The box-office failure of this movie caused Disney to seriously reconsider making any future hand-drawn animated films, prompting some to question if Disney deliberately sent it out to die so they shift focus once more exclusively towards CG animated filmsnote .
  • Following the blockbuster success of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there were high hopes that Disney would replicate that success with the sequel Prince Caspian three years later. In a very odd decision, Disney opted to reserve that holiday season's slate for Bolt and Bedtime Stories (2008), while choosing to release Prince Caspian in May, right in between Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. They also heavily butchered the marketing campaign by trying to market it as a teen film and put Ben Barnes' Prince Caspian character as the film's selling point, even though Caspian is largely a supporting character at best in the film. Consequently, it barely managed to recoup its budget domestically, and did far worse overseas, turning in a much smaller profit than the previous movie (in large part due to its $225 million budget) and causing Disney to bail the Narnia franchise at the end of the year. 20th Century Fox was then brought in by co-producer Walden Media to release The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as a result.
  • Treasure Planet was seemingly set up to fail. It was originally pitched in 1985 after The Black Cauldron in the same meeting that greenlit The Little Mermaid (1989), then re-pitched again after the success of the directors' next film, Aladdin, before it was approved on the condition their next film, Hercules, was a success. By the time development started, Jeffrey Katzenberg had left for DreamWorks and his replacement, Michael Eisner, had no stake in the film's success, so the marketing was misaimed, misleading and full of spoilers and it was released in winter opposite Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Disney's own The Santa Clause 2, rather than a summer release, leading to it underperforming at the box office and failing to recoup its $140 million budget (it was very expensive to make due to its extensive use of deep canvas). Directors John Musker and Ron Clements nearly resigned from Disney to reunite with Katzenberg, but Eisner was forced out and John Lasseter convinced them to stay and make The Princess and the Frog.
  • Hocus Pocus was—somewhat infamously—released in July, despite being a horror comedy that takes place on Halloween, possibly because Disney executives disapproved of its content and considered it way too dark for a family film. In their defense: its plot revolves around child sacrifice, it explicitly features the death of a child and an execution by hanging within the first 15 minutes, and it includes (among other things) a graphic scene of a cat getting run over by a bus, the villains getting burned alive in a kiln, and the main character being repeatedly mocked for being a virgin. Unsurprisingly, not many people were in the mood to watch a Halloween movie in the middle of Summer, and it ended up as an infamous Box Office Bomb. It wasn't until the 2000s that it gradually built up a cult following after many Millennials rediscovered it through annual TV airings on Halloween, eventually inspiring Disney to greenlight a sequel more than 20 years after the original.

  • Strange Magic was made by Lucasfilm, but the studio was bought out by Disney before it could be released. Disney released it in January with minimal advertising under Touchstone Pictures specifically so they could disown it, and the film got pulled from theaters after playing for a short amount of time. To make matters worse, the film has only been released on DVD, with no Blu-ray release in sight.
  • Disney more or less abandoned Solo following the film's Troubled Production. Since the movie went over budget by $80 million, Disney refused to spend more money on marketing the film, and instead focused on promoting the more lucrative Avengers: Infinity War. The first footage of the movie wasn’t made public until during the Super Bowl, just over 3 months before the release. Disney also denied Lucasfilm’s request to delay the movie to December, having already reserved Mary Poppins Returns for that month. Subsequently Solo was trounced at the box office by Infinity War and Deadpool 2, making it the first Star Wars movie ever to lose money in theaters.

    20th Century Fox/Studios and Searchlight Pictures 


  • 20th Century Fox was rather infamous for this in film as well as television under Tom Rothman, who left in 2013 for Sony. Some examples include:
    • 127 Hours: dumped by Fox in favor of Love and Other Drugs due to uneasiness over the film's content. Sabotaged again after Oscar announcements when Fox announced the DVD release two days before a hastily scheduled wide release. However, the film has managed to be a hit in the UK (where it was distributed by Warner Bros.)
    • Babylon A.D.: Taken away from director, and heavily edited from its original concept. Release date postponed to just before Labor Day weekend with limited marketing and died against Tropic Thunder and The Dark Knight.
    • The Big Year: dumped by Fox despite having three bankable names in the lead roles, an established supporting cast, and a director whose last two films grossed over $100 million. The studio also released a trailer that misrepresented the plot of the film and had almost no promotion done for it.
    • One example where the screwing didn't work was Borat. With the film being mired in controversy in the months prior to release, and with almost all Middle Eastern countries refusing to clear the film for release, Fox released the film to just 837 theaters on its opening weekend under the belief it would bomb. In a surprise that shocked everyone in the film industry at the time, the movie won the top spot at the box office with a massive $26.4 million haul, instantly making its budget back. Fox went on to release the film to more theaters the following weekend and it ended up grossing $261.6 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing mockumentary of all time.
    • The Crucible: It’s not known why Fox had no hope in this movie. Despite receiving plenty of hype from critics and the film being major Oscar Bait material (in a good way), Fox dumped the film into a limited amount of theaters and gave it barely any advertising, resulting in the film becoming a Box Office Bomb despite good reviews from critics.
    • Fantastic Four (2015): Taken away from director, hastily re-edited and re-shot, and several significant scenes were cut for reasons unexplained. The release date was postponed numerous times and its advertising campaign didn't start until seven months before release. Already with a tainted reputation (it was a well-reported Troubled Production, and audiences were uneasy in a movie made only to keep the character rights), it ultimately died against Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.
    • Fantastic Mr. Fox: released on Thanksgiving weekend with almost no marketing whatsoever and died against Twilight: New Moon and The Blind Side.
    • Idiocracy: dumped into 125 theaters with no advertising (due to studio politics and choosing to promote The Marine instead; the film's constant jabs at the FOX network and Fox News might also have something to do with it).
    • Perfect Creature: dumped into regional release for one week and then released straight-to-DVD.
    • The Pyramid: 20th Century Fox did very little promotion for the film outside of horror-centric websites, and dumped it into just 589 North American theatres on the first weekend of December (traditionally one of the worst box office weekends of the year). The following weekend they expanded it to 685 theatres, just barely enough for it to technically count as a "nationwide" release.
    • Ravenous (1999): dumped into 1,000 theaters with limited advertising (and mismarketed as a teen-oriented horror film).
    • Sunshine: dumped into 500 theaters after one week of successful limited release and left to die against The Simpsons Movie (Fox apparently did this as they didn't like the international numbers).
    • Tigerland: dumped into 5 theaters with no advertising.
    • Titan A.E. was given about a year of production time when Don Bluth was put on the project. His team managed to finish the film just barely. The film then proceeded to lose over $100 million upon its theatrical release, so they decided to close its animation division completely.
    • Whip It: dumped into under 2,000 theaters as Fox spent more time promoting Jennifer's Body (also Fox only sneaked the film to bump up the latter's numbers).
  • The Flamingo Kid, while not a Fox production (ABC produced it), was actually profitable and got applause from critics and audiences. Problem was, Fox only got a cut of the gross from box office performance and not subsequent home video sales, and since they were pouring tons of money on advertising, they made far less money on it than they hoped. So, out of sheer spite, Fox pulled the film not long after release, causing ABC to miss out on potential revenue from home video and pay-TV sales. A big case of Screwed by the Distributor if there was one.


  • The last two X-Men Film Series films have been this:
    • Once Disney bought Fox, they had to deal with whatever the studio had done or was planning. Along with the cancelled projects, no movie was more hit than Dark Phoenix, as most of the marketing team was victim of lay-offs as soon as the studio takeover was finished, leading to low awareness rates that contributed to the film becoming a Box Office Bomb.
    • The New Mutants: the kerfuffle of the Fox acquisition prevented Josh Boone from doing reshoots and such (by the time he could do so, the actors had visibly aged when the characters are supposed to be teenagers), and Disney kept postponing the release date, always with heavy competition up front or looming ahead, showing a lack of faith - February 22, 2019 date would've seen it opening against How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and just a week after Fox's own Alita: Battle Angel; August 2, 2019 would've seen the film opening against Hobbs & Shaw and a week before the similarly-themed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019); and April 3, 2020 would've seen it open directly between the planned releases of Disney's own Mulan and the James Bond film No Time to Die, and just two weeks after that of A Quiet Place Part II. Its final release date of August 28th saw it open not only head-to-head with Bill & Ted Face the Music and one week before Tenet and Mulan, but also in the middle of a raging pandemic.
  • The Empty Man was promoted even less than the long-delayed The New Mutants, with the first trailer and marketing not even debuting until one week before its release date. Disney didn't even bother to change the opening logo and credits from 20th Century Fox to 20th Century Studios. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, this is one of the rare movies that has been moved up, suggesting Disney had little faith in the movie. The social media pages promoted Free Guy instead of this movie. Hell, it didn't even get a home media releasenote , effectively encouraging piracy in that medium, and anyone actually interested has to resort to buying a digital copy or go to HBO Max, as well as the occasional rerun on HBO proper. Said scarcity, however, combined with the apparent burial of the film warranting a reappraisal to determine if it deserved said burial from reviewers, may have contributed to the film garnering a decent following amongst fans, and the film managed to become a Cult Classic just a year after its' release.
  • The film adaptation of NIMONA was scrapped with the announcement of the closure of Blue Sky Studios (the studio that was in the midst of producing it) by April 2021. What makes this one especially sour is that it was reportedly 75% complete by the time Disney gave the crew the call. Thankfully it got rescued by Annapurna and Netflix.
    • Interestingly, it isn't even the first film to be canceled due to the Disney-Fox merger (that would be an adaptation of Mouse Guard, though that was in pre-production and Disney did give the crew permission to shop it elsewhere, but nobody was interested).
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield had an initial U.S. date of May 8, 2020, which positioned the film as a counterprogramming play one week after Disney's own Black Widow (Searchlight Pictures' The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which had also featured Copperfield star Dev Patel, had flourished alongside another Marvel tentpole). However, the COVID-19 Pandemic scuttled that strategy. The rescheduled date saw Disney instead dumping the film in late August as one of the first mid-pandemic theatrical releases — on the same day, in fact, as the aforementioned The New Mutants, cementing the studio disrespect. Cue a terrible sub-$2 million box office performance. (The fact that the film had already been released in numerous countries and was thus liable to piracy is likely the reason it wasn't held further.)