Battle of tech and media giants

It’s no coincidence that two newcomers to the best picture race – Netflix and Disney —are facing off this year on the awards stage ahead of their coming digital battle. While Netflix pushes into the Hollywood establishment, Disney is on the precipice of making a major push into digital, with its streaming service Disney+ launching in the fall.

Disney’s role at the Oscars has generally been limited to its animated films, but that’s changing this year.

Fox drew the most nominations, 20, followed by Disney with 17. With Fox’s Disney acquisition expected to close any day now, consider those awards combined, and they show the combined company’s true scale.

The nomination of “Black Panther” for best picture, with a total of 7 nominations, is momentous for a number of reasons, including the fact that it’s the first-ever superhero movie to be nominated for Hollywood’s top award. With its $1.37 billion worldwide take, the film is a rare example of a studio’s ability to win the box office, critical acclaim, and at the same time shape the social conversation with its almost entirely black cast. The film not only defied expectations, it also re-wrote the rules about what types of movies and stars “work” – both in the US and overseas. The Academy’s consideration of this comic book character also validates Disney’s ongoing investment in Marvel, with 5 movies in the works to launch this year.

Disney, unlike Warner Brothers and Universal, has said explicitly that it’s not interested in shortening the window between theatrical and at-home releases. It doesn’t seem to have any need to, as evidenced by its 26 percent domestic box office market share last year and 22 percent the year before. One industry insider pointed to the fact that Disney has moved some movies originally designed for theatrical release — such as a “Lady and the Tramp” remake — to Disney+. Because of Disney’s ever growing size and the power of its franchises, it doesn’t need to shorten windows — like Netflix, it can make the windows entirely disappear and bring theatrical content straight to consumers.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of both CNBC and Universal Pictures.

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