How much did Disney pay for Marvel? Who owns Marvel Studios? The Marvel Cinematic Universe has captured the imagination of moviegoers for over a decade now, with the announcement of upcoming titles like “Captain America New World Order” and “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty” whipping the fandom into a frenzy.
Given the somewhat danger-drive plotlines of most Marvel movies, it might surprise viewers to know that the answer to the question “Who owns Marvel?” is in fact the house that Mickey built: the Walt Disney Co.
Although former CEO Bob Iger admitted some Disney execs had originally been concerned the characters were a bit more “edgy” than the Disney brand, the bet to buy the comic-book giant paid off handsomely. As Marvel Phase 5 and 6 make their way to the big screen and promise more box office gains, here’s you need to know about the original acquisition.
How much did Disney pay for Marvel?
Disney paid a total of $4 billion for the purchase of Marvel. In 2019, CNBC reported that in the decade since the purchase, the MCU had made Disney over $18 billion at the box office.
When did Disney buy Marvel?
Disney bought Marvel in 2009, securing rights to Marvel Entertainment’s plentiful realm of superheroes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has since been a cash cow for Disney, raking in box office sales with major titles like “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Panther.” Disney+, the company’s streaming platform, has also reaped the benefits with hit shows like “WandaVision” and “Ms. Marvel.”
Why did Marvel sell to Disney?
In 2009, The New York Times reported that Marvel had trouble financing some of its major movies and meeting a requirement to raise a third of its budget by selling off overseas distribution rights. The company ended up needing to finance that third itself, which would be a great deal easier as a subsidiary of Disney.
Disney, on the other hand, was focused on growth. Iger said of the deal, “There are so many opportunities to mine both characters that are known and characters that are not widely known.”
Iger later wrote in his book, “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company,” that his predecessor Michael Eisner had expressed interest in acquiring Marvel years earlier, but other Disney executives were concerned the characters didn’t fit with the brand’s family- friendly reputation.
Who owns Marvel Studios?
In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. That may sound like a lot, and of course it is, but since then Disney have more than made their money back from the MCU box office receipts alone. Across the 23 movies already made in the MCU, the domestic box office has hit $8.545 billion, while worldwide that figure reaches a staggering $22.588 billion.
Not bad for a $4 billion investment.
Disney of course has further expanded its fan-favorite franchise portfolio with the purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, giving them the rights to the Star Wars empire. They bought those rights for $4 billion but have already seen a gross profit from that purchase thanks to the production of five films and multiple TV series.
There were some slight complications with Disney’s purchase of Marvel Entertainment with regards to character rights. While Disney bought the rights to over 5,000 characters in the Marvel Universe, there were still some big hitters that weren’t going to be part of the MCU because rival film studios retained their own rights.
Spider-Man and the Sony Pictures Debacle
Despite being a major presence in Marvel comic books and one of the most popular heroes, Spider-Man wasn’t able to play with his friends over at Disney.
That’s because Sony had the rights to the character, and has done for over twenty years now.
Cinema Retro Magazine reported on a complicated back and forth in 1999 that saw Columbia Pictures (owned by Sony) relinquish its ownership of the 007 franchise to MGM, while MGM gave sole ownership of Spider-Man to Columbia Pictures.
Spider-Man then swung into theaters in 2002 to start the successful Sam Raimi trilogy. As Deadline reported in 2010, a fourth film was planned but eventually got stuck in development purgatory, forcing Sony to re-evaluate the property, before deciding to reboot the character with 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man.
They had planned to create their own Spider-Man cinematic universe to rival Disney’s MCU, but a disappointing sequel put a cap on those plans.
Then came the moment all Marvel fans were waiting for. Sony and Disney came to an agreement, and Peter Parker finally joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Initially there was a cameo in Captain America: Civil War, before he got his own movie, and joining the Avengers in Infinity War and Endgame.
There was brief panic in 2019 when Sony Pictures and Disney disagreed about profit distribution, which cast doubt on the future of Spider-Man in the MCU. Sony Pictures made the grand gesture of responding to the reports on social media, suggesting it was down to Disney’s decision to remove Kevin Feige as the lead producer on Spider-Man films.
By September the agreement was back on and Spider-Man remains part of the MCU, which was apparently all thanks to the man who currently plays Peter Parker, Tom Holland. Disney CEO Bob Igor appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and explained how Holland reached out to him directly to quash the drama. Igor said: “It was clear that he cared so much and actually we care a lot about him. He’s a great Spider-Man. I actually felt for him, and it was clear that the fans wanted this to happen.
Who owns the Marvel movies now?
It’s a complicated situation that has been playing out between several studios for decades now. We believe the main stages of negotiation between the three can be summarized in four stages:
- Disney bought Marvel Entertainment, but Sony owned Spider-Man and 20th Century Fox owned Mutants.
- Disney developed the Marvel Cinematic Universe while Sony made two Spider-Man movies and 20th Century Fox continued to produce X-Men films.
- Disney and Sony made a deal so Spider-Man could join the MCU. Meanwhile, Fox continued making X-Men films and the critically panned Fantastic Four film.
- Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, made a new deal with Sony, and now the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man will all be part of the same Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That’s as simple as we can make the situation. There are added layers of complication when it comes to theme park rights, streaming service rights, TV shows and talent contract negotiations. We’ll spare you that explanation for now.
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