Disney is massive. Bigger than it’s ever been before

The Walt Disney Company has been one of the biggest names in the film and media industry for decades. And it’s only getting more powerful.
The Alameda Avenue entrance to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.
The Walt Disney Company has enjoyed a stellar 2019. Photo: Coolcaesar via Wikimedia Commons

Even though the Walt Disney Company’s legendary founder died more than 50 years ago, his legacy has gone from strength to strength.

Walt Disney may have been the driving force which established the Walt Disney Company as a household name, but acquisitions and shrewd business practices have been responsible for most of the company’s recent success.

The figures for 2019 are astounding. As of 13 October, Buena Vista, Disney’s film distribution arm, has attained a 32.1% box office market share in North America.

As reported by The Guardian, so far in 2019 the Walt Disney Company has smashed its previous box office market share record. This came just last year, when Disney secured a comparatively puny 26% of the North American market.

What is even more amazing is the fact Disney is doing so well amidst a general downturn in box office sales this year.

By mid-July, US box office sales were already down 10% from the same time last year. This means Disney’s record year has come at a time when other studios are struggling.

Why has Disney done so well this year?

Disney’s success so far in 2019 has not come out of the blue. Buena Vista has released a number of big-name, high-budget films which have driven a record-breaking year.

Top of the pile, not only in terms of this year’s most successful films, but also the past decade’s, was Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Endgame, Odeon Leicester Square
Avengers: Endgame sits at the top of the all time film gross rankings. Photo: David Holt via Flickr

In fact, Avengers: Endgame tops the pile of the most successful films ever. With a worldwide box office gross of $2.796 billion, Avengers: Endgame narrowly beat Titanic to become the most successful film of all time.

Considering this one film alone, it’s perhaps not surprising Disney has had such a great year. But there’s more.

Lion King, another 2019 Disney release which is still in cinemas, places 7th on the all-time gross rankings.

Then you also have Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4 and Aladdin, which place 24th, 30th and 34th respectively.

The strategy behind Disney’s success

This year has been a record-breaker for Disney, but it’s not just down to a good run of films.

Disney has acquired a number of industry competitors and other media companies for huge sums of money in the past 15 years.

Disney’s most recent acquisition, which just so happens to be its largest, was completed on 20 March this year.

Walt Disney Company flag
The Disney-Fox acquisition raised numerous antitrust concerns. Photo: Loren Javier via Flickr

Disney bought its rival, and fellow member of the ‘big six’ Hollywood movie studios, 21st Century Fox. The $71.3 billion price tag for the Fox acquisition ranks amongst the largest merger and acquisition deals of the past decade.

It means Disney now owns the rights to Fox properties, including the Simpsons, Avatar and National Geographic shows.

Since the arrival of Disney’s current CEO, Bob Iger, the company has undergone a period of considerable expansion. Other important acquisitions completed by Disney under Iger were Pixar Animation Studios in 2006 and Marvel Entertainment in 2009.

These two purchases have both proven to be hugely lucrative for Disney. This year’s acquisition of Fox likely will do too.

One of the key aspects of the Fox acquisition will be Fox shows and series which Disney can use to strengthen its streaming offering. If its foray into streaming proves a success, Disney will be a formidable force in the home, as well as the silver screen.

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