On Nov. 2, 2018, streaming media giant Netflix premiered a remarkable piece of original content. Not the science education series Brainchild, or the latest season of the animated kiddie series Trolls: The Beat Goes On!, or even the ﬁnal, Kevin Spacey-less season of the hit political drama House of Cards. The appointment viewing that weekend was The Other Side of the Wind: the long-languishing ﬁnal ﬁlm from director Orson Welles, the visionary innovator behind classics like Touch of Evil, The Magniﬁcent Ambersons and, most notably, Citizen Kane.
Serious cinephiles and ﬁlm historians regarded the unﬁnished The Other Side of the Wind as a cinematic lost ark. Started in 1970, the ﬁlm fell victim to countless production trip-ups. Regardless of what one makes of the ﬁnally completed ﬁlm itself, simply seeing it—at home, preceded by the da-DOMP Netflix logo—was remarkable. The company that began in 1998 as a modest mail-order DVD rental outﬁt is no longer merely a global entertainment company. Netflix can now make miracles.
If any other media giant can cut into Netflix’s status as miracle-making media behemoth, it’s the Walt Disney Company. Long purveyors of cinematic magic, pockets deep with pixie dust, Disney is moving into the streaming media game, cutting ties with Netflix by the end of this year and launching its own competing service in 2019.
The nitty-gritty details of Disney Plus, as the service will be known, have yet to materialize. But while we don’t know how it will compete on price or streaming quality, what Disney does have in its favour is its brand. Or, rather, brands. Fans of mega-franchises like Star Wars and Marvel and High School Musical are likely to sign up for the new service, which will house not only existing titles, but entirely new offerings. There will be a new live-action Star Wars series developed by director Jon Favreau, a show starring Avengers villain Loki, and remakes of Disney classics like The Sword in the Stone and Lady and the Tramp. Netflix thrives, in part, on the sheer breadth of its catalogue; Disney’s platform will focus, according to CEO Bob Iger, on “high quality.”
It’s a tantalizing play for both movie fans and market speculators. Disney-owned brands dominate the global box ofﬁce. And Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox also gives it access to other fan-favourite franchises, such as The Simpsons and the X-Men. Anyone interested in mega-franchises will ﬁnd some allure in Disney’s at-home service.