Disney-Fox Deal: 10 Biggest Questions – Variety

Disney and Fox are racing towards the finish line.

The two media companies are expected to announce a $60 billion-plus pact this week that will see Disney snap up much of Fox’s television and film holdings. If completed, the deal will dramatically reshape the entertainment landscape, bringing together for the first time two of Hollywood’s “Big Six” studios under common ownership, all to give Disney the bigger arsenal of programming it needs to do battle with Netflix and other new entrants in the content business.

Details of the plan and deal points are being closely guarded. There are also many uncertainties about who will run the combined companies, how the government will react to the prospect of consolidation among Hollywood studios, and what it all means for the creative community. Here’s a look at key questions that need to be addressed.

1) Will the Murdochs be involved in Disney?

Yes, they’ll have their own company to run, but will Rupert, Lachlan, and James be satisfied overseeing Fox News, the Fox broadcast network, and Fox Sports in such a pared-down form? They’ll also, as part of the deal, receive a small stake in Disney. But could they somehow leverage the merger into a seat at the table for father or sons? Disney chief Bob Iger is expected to extend his contract as CEO beyond its current mid-2019 expiration point to preside over the integration of the Fox assets. But he’ll eventually need to find a successor. As the Disney board has had no traction with internal candidates, they might be inclined to look at Fox’s formidable team. James Murdoch’s name has been mentioned as making the transition to Disney, spurring succession talk, but sources on both sides of the talks caution that there is no such stipulation in the deal.

2) Will Fox continue to make movies?

On Monday, Fox grabbed a leading 27 Golden Globe nominations, double the number racked up by any other major media company, for fielding the likes of “The Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri,” and “The Post.” These are gutsy, auteur-driven movies that are geared at adults. They’re also exactly the kind of movies that Disney no longer makes. The studio instead focuses on animated fantasies, Star Wars sequels, and Avengers spin-offs; big-budget offerings that appeal to all ages. Moreover, Disney got out of the indie movie game when it sold Miramax in 2010. Does it have any interest in Fox’s art house label Searchlight?

With Disney looking to launch a streaming service, there’s an argument to be made that it needs as much content as possible to attract customers. If Disney wants to create a Netflix killer, that won’t just require having access to Captain America and Luke Skywalker. It may mean offering up a few R-rated movies. Fox knows how to do that.

3) Will the Justice Department OK the deal?

Rupert Murdoch has friends in high places (namely a certain Oval Office occupant), but it’s tough out there for media mergers. Just ask the folks at AT&T and Time Warner. That pact is currently being held up by the Justice Department over anti-trust concerns. That deal is a vertical one, meaning that the two companies operate at different stages of a product’s supply chain and have very few overlapping operations. The Disney and Fox deal is a horizontal merger, in other words that they are in the same business. Historically, horizontal mergers have faced more hurdles in getting government approval because they have a greater chance of creating monopolies. It remains to be seen how this corporate marriage will be greeted in Washington and if Disney and Fox will have to jettison any television or film holdings in order to appease the government.

4) Will Iger stay longer?

Iger’s tenure at Disney has been a dramatic one. He’s shown a willingness to make bold bets, snapping up Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilm, and, now, Fox. Managing all these fiefdoms takes talent. Iger is currently slated to step down in 2019 when his contract expires. But there’s no successor in place, and the pressure will be on him to sign up for another tour of duty. That may mean putting his (not so secret) presidential ambitions on the back burner.

5) Will the X-Men team With the Avengers?

Fanboys and fangirls don’t seem to care about monopolistic niceties or the end of the era for the Murdoch gang. They’re more interested in seeing Wolverine hanging out at Avengers HQ. Those dreams could soon come true. After all, the Fox purchase does give Disney, and in particular Marvel, its comic book division, rights to several superheroes that it had licensed to Fox. Not only does the company now have the ability to make X-Men movies, but it can also reboot the Fantastic Four. There’s a whole new world of mutants and costumed heroes just waiting to join the MCU. That leaves only Sony’s Spider-Man films existing outside of Disney and Marvel’s direct control.

6) What does this mean for Netflix?

Buckle up. Netflix has fashioned itself into the de facto subscription streaming service, luring tens of millions of customers to its platform. But Disney wants in on the business. The company has already announced plans to build a standalone streaming service by 2019, and with the Fox deal, it will not only be able to offer films and shows from Pixar, Marvel, and LucasFilm. It can add programming from the likes of FX and National Geographic, along with movies such as “Alien” and “Avatar” from the Fox studio catalogue. Plus, by purchasing Fox’s assets, Disney will have majority control of Hulu, giving them even more access to those digital dollars.

7) What happens to the Fox lot?

Fox’s Century City sound stages are the stuff of Hollywood history. Will Disney get the 50-plus acres of production and post-production facilities that sit on incredibly valuable Westside real estate? It may not want them. Given that the company already has its own substantial studio lot in Burbank, does it want to maintain offices on both sides of the 134 freeway?

8) What becomes of the Fox Broadcast network?

The upstart network that broke up the hegemony of the Big Three networks in the late 1980s may be in for a dramatic makeover. The word is the Murdochs intend to refocus Fox Broadcasting around news and sports. Fox has been struggling to gain traction with scripted programming in recent years. With the network’s sibling studio on its way to Disney, it’s hard to see how Fox can invest big bucks on high-end dramas and comedies. It would be just like the Murdochs to zig while the rest of the industry is zagging in the Peak TV era.

9) How will producers and creative talent under contract at Fox react to the Disney takeover?

Ryan Murphy could soon be working for Disney. Fox’s TV and film divisions have a long list of production pacts with top filmmakers, writers, producers, and directors. Disney has a approach to content, which may not be a fit for everyone. In the short-term, however, 20th Century Fox and its units will operate autonomously, at least until the deal is completed.

10) How much synergy savings will Disney promise Wall Street?

 Analysts have zeroed in on about $2.5 billion in potential streamlining and elimination of redundancies within a few years after the deal is completed. That sounds like a big human toll, but for an operation the size of Disney, particularly after it has swallowed up the Fox assets, there may be less painful ways to squeeze out economies of scale.

Bitcoin, Ethereum ‘Not Suitable’ For Muslims, Says Turkish Government


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The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students

The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students


Republicans held a news conference on Capitol Hill after the House of Representatives passed a tax reform bill.CreditAl Drago for The New York Times

Republicans in the House of Representatives have just passed a tax bill that would devastate graduate research in the United States. Hidden in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a repeal of Section 117(d)(5) of the current tax code, a provision that is vital to all students who pursue master’s degrees or doctorates and are not independently wealthy.

I’m a graduate student at M.I.T., where I study the neurological basis of mental health disorders. My peers and I work between 40 and 80 hours a week as classroom teachers and laboratory researchers, and in return, our universities provide us with a tuition waiver for school. For M.I.T. students, this waiver keeps us from having to pay a bill of about $50,000 every year— a staggering amount, but one that is similar to the fees at many other colleges and universities. No money from the tuition waivers actually ends up in our pockets, so under Section 117(d)(5), it isn’t counted as taxable income.

But under the House’s tax bill, our waivers will be taxed. This means that M.I.T. graduate students would be responsible for paying taxes on a $80,000 annual salary, when we actually earn $33,000 a year. That’s an increase of our tax burden by at least $10,000 annually.

It would make meeting living expenses nearly impossible, barring all but the wealthiest students from pursuing a Ph.D. The students who will be hit hardest — many of whom will almost certainly have to leave academia entirely — are those from communities that are already underrepresented in higher education.

The law would also decimate American competitiveness.

Some universities might be able to cover tuition for some students, but in so doing, they would be forced to decrease the total number of graduate students they accept. American applicants to graduate school will leave the United States in favor of less expensive international institutions, and United States institutions will be unable to attract international candidates. At M.I.T., 43 percent of graduate students are foreign nationals, many of whom receive international funding. These students conduct transformative research, and bring so much diversity of culture, experience and expertise to our schools. Do we really want to shut out the next generation of innovators from our universities?

Graduate students are part of the hidden work force that drives some of the most important scientific and sociological advancements in the country. The American public benefits from it. Every dollar of basic research funded by the National Institutes of Health, for example, leads to a $1.70 output from biotechnology industries. The N.I.H. reports that the average American life span has increased by 30 years, in part, because of a better understanding of human health. I’d say that’s a pretty good return on investment for United States taxpayers.

I personally owe my life and mobility to academic research. In 2015, I found out I had reflex sympathetic dystrophy (also known as complex regional pain syndrome), and since then, I have spent around 20 percent of my annual income on medical expenses. If Congress passes the House Republicans’ tax bill as it stands, I will be forced to choose between medical expenses and my education.

In a horrible twist, the repeal of Section 117 (d)(5) isn’t the only part of the tax bill that would hurt college students. The House bill would also end the student loan interest deduction, which allows individuals who make up to $80,000 and are repaying student loans to decrease their debt. It also eliminates the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is instrumental for many nontraditional students.

And still, House Republicans voted this bill into law. Now it is up to our representatives in both the House and Senate to reject it.


8 Must-Watch Movie Trailers Of The Week [04.11.17]

We’re entering the final stretch of 2017 and that means one thing in Hollywood: time for the annual year-end onslaught of December releases.

Studios are gearing up to drop an avalanche of movie trailers before the holidays hit, and this week’s crop includes some intriguing specimens.

First and foremost is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is nearly guaranteed to be the season’s biggest hit. I, Tonya is also gearing up for a solid stint at the box office, thanks to a stellar performance from Margot Robbie and a story being called “the Goodfellas of figure skating.” And for cult film fans, The Disaster Artist is next month’s can’t-miss flick.

Get acquainted with December’s power trio – and more – below.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Having taken her first steps into a larger world in (2015), Rey joins Luke Skywalker in an adventure with Leia, Finn, and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past. At the helm is writer and director Rian Johnson, with Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman as producers and J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski as executive producers.


When scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall as a solution to over-population, Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in order to get small and move to a new downsised community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures.

Ghost Stories

Professor Phillip Goodman, a psychologist and skeptic, has his rationality tested when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three terrifying hauntings, and embarks on a terror-filled mission to find rational explanations for the ghostly happenings.


For decades, motel owner Gerald Foos secretly watched his guests with the aid of specially designed ceiling vents, peering down from an “observation platform” he built in the motel’s attic. He kept detailed journals of his guests’ most private moments — from the mundane to the shocking — but most of all he sought out, spied on, and documented one thing: strangers having sex. Journalist Gay Talese’s insatiable curiosity leads him to turn his gaze to a man accustomed to being the watcher, exploring a tangle of ethical questions: What does a journalist owe to his subjects? How can a reporter trust a source who has made a career of deception? Who is really the voyeur?

I, Tonya

Based on unbelievable but true events, I, Tonya is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater Tonya Harding and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous, ill-conceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan. Featuring an iconic turn by Margot Robbie as the fiery Harding, I, Tonya is an absurd, irreverent, and piercing portrayal of Harding’s life and career in all of its unchecked – and checkered – glory.

A Prayer Before Dawn

A Prayer Before Dawn is the remarkable true story of Billy Moore, a young English boxer incarcerated in two of Thailand’s most notorious prisons. He is quickly thrown into a terrifying world of drugs and gang violence, but when the prison authorities allow him to take part in Muay Thai boxing tournaments, he realises this might be his chance to get out. Billy embarks on a relentless, action-packed journey from one savage fight to the next, stopping at nothing to preserve his life and regain his freedom. Shot in a an actual Thai prison with a cast of real inmates, A Prayer Before Dawn is a visceral, thrilling journey through an unforgettable hell on earth.


Maynard (Michael Shannon), a beloved local businessman, is mistaken for the legendary Bigfoot during an inebriated romp through town in a makeshift gorilla costume. The sightings set off an international Bigfoot media spectacle and a windfall of tourism dollars for a simple American town hit by hard times.

The Disaster Artist

James Franco transforms the tragicomic true-story of aspiring filmmaker and infamous Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau – an artist whose passion was as sincere as his methods were questionable – into a celebration of friendship, artistic expression, and dreams pursued against insurmountable odds. Based on Greg Sestero’s best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy’s cult-classic disasterpiece The Room (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”), The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and welcome reminder that there is more than one way to become a legend — and no limit to what you can achieve when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

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