Disney chief Bob Iger didn’t mince words when asked about the losing streak during Wednesday’s earnings call, although he did first have to remind investors that it hasn’t been all bad news, noting that four of the top 10 films in the past year came from the company, including Avatar: The Way of Water.
“That said, as I looked at our overall output, meaning the studio, it’s clear that the pandemic created a lot of challenges creatively for everybody, including for us,” the media mogul said. “In addition, at the time the pandemic hit, we were leaning into a huge increase in how much we were making and I’ve always felt that quantity can be actually a negative when it comes to quality. And I think that’s exactly what happened. We lost some focus.”
Iger was seemingly taking a swipe at his short-lived predecessor, Bob Chapek, for ramping up content production across TV and film. Historically, including for most of the time Iger was CEO the first go-around, the company’s film operation released far fewer titles than its rivals.
Meanwhile, Disney’s performance at the box office is sure to be in the spotlight once again this weekend as The Marvels hits the big screen. If tracking is correct, the superhero pic could mark one of the worst openings ever for Marvel Studios.
Iger — who didn’t mention The Marvels — said the task now is to focus on quality, and not quantity.
“We’re all rolling up our sleeves, including myself, to do just that. We have obviously great assets, great stories to tell from the assets that we either have or that we purchased. And I feel really optimistic about the slate going forward, which is going to be a balance between some really strong sequels to some very, very popular titles, as well as some good original content, starting with Wish, which comes out Thanksgiving weekend,” he continued. “So I feel good about the direction we’re headed. But I’m mindful of the fact that our performance from a quality perspective wasn’t really up to the standards that we set for ourselves.”
Recent high-profile misses for Disney include Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and The Haunted Mansion. And its animation studios hit troubled times in the pandemic era when several Pixar titles were sent straight to streaming in a move that critics say conditioned families to stay home, versus making a trip to the cinema.