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Disney's 'Wish' box office performance is the most recent flaw in the studio's once-invincible armor

The new animated musical fable Wish is about the Wishing Star that so many Disney characters have wished upon over the studio’s century-long history, failed to become the de facto choice for families around Thanksgiving – opening in third place with a dull $31.7 million over the five-day holiday, a far cry from Disney’s past Turkey Day feasts. 

Disney, since the pandemic, has struggled to launch new films that aren't based on superheroes, branded IP, or in a galaxy far, far away. And the lackluster turnouts for several recent Marvel movies, including the fifth 'Indiana Jones' adventure and 'The Little Mermaid,' suggest that brand familiarity is not enough to bring audiences to the theaters. 

“It’s not just Disney; the other studios have also suffered setbacks in this post-pandemic world,” says Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “That said, Disney’s misfires certainly are the most prolific considering where they are now versus where they were. And where were they? On the box office throne. Nearly untouchable. Now? Mere mortals.” 

One of the biggest elements is that Disney movies are hugely expensive. They require production budgets of around $200 million, not including $100 million in marketing costs. Disney justifies these expenses because its movies are worth more than just their theatrical revenues; they inspire profitable consumer product lines, theme park attractions, and eventual streaming releases on Disney +. Does this become less financially effective in the long-term if Disney goes back to the well again and again. (a live-action remake of “Moana” is coming in 2024, and if a live-action “Frozen” hasn’t already been announced, it’s only a matter of time…). Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has admitted the studio’s mistake in leaning into quantity over quality during the pandemic. “We lost some focus,” he said during a recent earnings call.

/Alice Sagripanti

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