Disney swings the axe at Fox theatrical

The long-expected redundancies at 20th Century Fox Film Distributors’ Sydney head office, now part of the Walt Disney Co., have begun.

Large-scale lay-offs seemed inevitable since Australasia MD Marc Wooldridge departed at the end of June after 27 years with the company.

At the same time Jo Bladen stepped down as Disney’s general manager, studios and live entertainment after 21 years with Disney.

They were among the first high-profile casualties of Disney’s $US71.3 billion takeover of most of 21st Century Fox’s prized assets.

Among the other departures were Flavio Paoli, Fox Home Entertainment’s regional senior VP, Australia and Japan, and Richard Samuels, executive VP Asia Pacific for Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution.

The last Fox theatrical release was Stuber and there is a gap until the September 19 launch of James Gray’s Ad Astra, a sci-fi drama starring Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones, which will go out via Disney.

IF understands head of sales David Townsend is finishing up after more than 20 years with Fox, as are head of marketing Sue Zerk after 13 years and Melbourne-based sales manager Paul Timos after 30 years.

That is a considerable loss of film industry experience and expertise. There is no clarity yet over whether any of the remaining Fox staffers – there were about 30 in Sydney – are being offered jobs at Disney. It’s believed they have waited many months to learn their fate.

Some cinema industry executives question Disney’s ability to get the most out of the Fox films it’s inheriting – generally different and more nuanced propositions from the Disney/Pixar/Marvel-branded properties – without the know-how and smarts of at least some members of the Fox sales and marketing team.

Josh Brigham, Disney’s Melbourne-based director of studio sales, and an HR rep were spotted at the Fox offices at Fox Studios today.

A Disney spokesperson declined to comment.