ANIMATED FILMS, live-action adaptations of animated classics and superheroes dominate the global box office each year. So it’s no real surprise this week that the burgeoning streaming-service industry is steering hard to attract fans of those films.
Netflix, which already is in business with Marvel Studios with series like “Luke Cage” and “Jessica Jones,” on Monday announced its first acquisition: Millarworld, the Scottish comics company that created the “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” franchises. For Netflix, teaming with Mark Millar, a Marvel veteran himself, reflects a belief that comics-spawned action heroes represent a sure bet for big growth. (Right as the film sequel “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is due out next month from Fox.)
That deal quickly appeared to be a smart move, because just a day later, Disney — Marvel’s parent — unveiled its plans to begin untangling many of its connections to Netflix.
Disney — which also owns ESPN, Pixar and Lucasfilm — plans to launch its own sports streaming service next year and a family-friendly streaming service by 2019.
The Disney move had loomed not as a matter of if, but when. Because when you’re the Fort Knox of popular content, with decades of golden properties and the market muscle to protect your fiscal interests, not owning your own streaming services would have seemed atypically passive for the Mouse House under chief executive Bob Iger.
Iger also said Tuesday that Disney was still weighing how to make its Marvel and Star Wars feature films available to streaming services in the coming years — and whether Marvel and Star Wars might each get its own proprietary service.
Disney is smart to roll out its family-content plans for 2019 first, because that year, the studio will be releasing to theaters such mega-franchise films as “Frozen 2,” “Toy Story 4” and a live-action “Lion King” — movies that easily could each gross more than $1 billion globally. That cinematic beach head should help drive consumers to the Disney streaming service’s television content. Disney’s shows that air on Disney Channel and ABC, for instance, have reportedly dipped in profitability amid the cord-cutting trend among young viewers.
Disney’s confidence is surely buoyed by the strength of its big-screen content. Its slate in recent years has included “The Avengers” ($1.52 billion worldwide at the box office), “Frozen” ($1.28 billion), 2017’s “Beauty and the Beast” live-action adaptation ($1.26 billion) and “Toy Story 3” ($1.07 billion).
Which is all just a reminder that no entertainment company is as well-positioned as Disney to compete against established streaming services.
Meanwhile, the first “Kingsman” film grossed $414 million worldwide, and the two “Kick-Ass” movies have grossed more than $150 million combined, so Netflix gains in Millarworld one of the few comics producers outside of DC and Marvel to spark multiple comic-book movies that exceed expectations.
As streaming services intensify their competition in the next few years, the box office will be a bellwether: The three A’s — action, animation and adaptation — will draw the masses not only to the theater, but also from the big screen to the mobile one.