When Disney bought 21st Century Fox earlier this year, many people wondered how the acquisition would affect both studios and the movie industry as a whole. Now, we are beginning to see at least one unexpected consequence of the deal: Disney appears to be to putting several 20th Century Fox Films into the vault, which means limiting access of beloved movies like The Princess Bride, Alien, and Fight Club.
As reported by Vulture, previously, 20th Century Fox allowed independent theaters to screen their catalog of films simply by paying a licensing fee. However, once Fox fell under the Disney umbrella, several independent theaters discovered that Disney was no longer allowing them access to films that they had planned to play at their theaters.
When Joe Neff, who organizes the 24-Hour Science Fiction and Horror Marathons for the Drexel Theater in Columbus, Ohio, requested to screen The Omen (1976) and The Fly (1986), he found that his request had been denied. He then learned that he would need to stop screening Fox films entirely, even though several films from the 20th Century Fox catalog, like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Suspiria, had become staples of his festivals.
“Our Fox booking contact offered a very brief apology that she could no longer book repertory titles with the theater,” Neff told Vulture.
The strategy is one that Disney has employed before, as its mythical “vault” exists as a way to manufacture demand by denying viewers access to a movie for an extended period of time. Now, Disney appears to be using the “vault” strategy with Fox films, perhaps in an attempt to once again guide consumers towards subscribing to Disney+, which launches next month.
No matter what the strategy is, it’s hard not to be sad about independent theaters losing access to movies that fans love. Hopefully, Disney will lighten up and realize that even if it lets theaters screen some of their movies, it probably won’t hurt their bottom line too much, considering they own approximately 75 percent of the movie industry at this point.