Why Is Fox Still Developing X-Men Movies?

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Disney's $52.4 billion buyout of 21st Century Fox stands to introduce the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while bringing to an end the current version of the newly two-decades-old franchise. However, Fox isn't showing any signs of slowing down production in anticipation of the buyout. Earlier today, a new report indicated that Deadpool director Tim Miller is developing a solo movie starring Kitty Pryde, the first news of a Fox superhero film since the two companies announced a deal last month.

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Fox has also shown its commitment to finishing production on already-announced X-Men film: Drew Goddard's X-Force is said to still be in the works, and the long-delayed Gambit has been making steady progress. Outside of the X-Men, Noah Hawley confirmed his Doctor Doom film is still alive.

If Disney does acquire Fox's key assets, which include the X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four film rights, it's likely the House of Mouse will want to start over from scratch. However, the potential end of Fox's continuity doesn't mean the studio should stop development of its films. Choosing not to pursue new projects would potentially hurt both Fox and Disney in the long term, especially if the Federal Trade Commission doesn't approve their deal.

Federal Approval Is Still Months Away

Federal approval is expected to take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. In that time, Fox could make significant progress in the development and production of a new film. If Fox were to stop, any additional delays or gaps in production could result in a period in which the studio isn't releasing superhero movies, which would hurt it financially while also decreasing the visibility of its characters.

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Fox's continued production also stands to benefit Disney. CEO Bob Iger has indicated the Deadpool franchise will remain R-rated, despite having said in 2016 that his company has "no plans" to make films with that same rating. It's clear Disney doesn't want to mess with the formula that made Deadpool a critical and commercial success. Fox continuing to make films allows Disney to determine what audiences respond to about the properties, without taking any additional risks itself.

The Deal Could Fall Apart

The biggest threat to the deal is antitrust concerns. If the acquisition fell through, Fox would receive the substantial sum of $2.5 billion from Disney. But if Fox were to pump the brakes on development and production, the studio might also suddenly find itself scrambling to cobble together a new slate of films, to the detriment of its brand and its bottom line. By continuing development, Fox might receive its $2.5 billion with, at worst, minor disruptions to its production cycle, which is certainly an appealing financial prospect.

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It's also possible the acquisition could be rejected by U.S. regulators, yet the X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four could still join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although a co-production agreement similar to the one struck in 2015 by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures has long been deemed unlikely, there's nothing that says Disney and Fox couldn't negotiate a side deal for the character rights, even if the larger buyout doesn't meet with government approval.

While the deal is certainly going to affect the future of the X-Men franchise, Fox's continued development of movies is a good idea for both companies, as it opens up many potential avenues for the future of superhero movies without hurting either company.

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