UPDATE: To the delight of fans, the Fox-Disney deal has gone through with the Fantastic Four included. The original story follows.
Disney will soon return the X-Men to Marvel Studios with the purchase of 20th Century Fox, although that doesn’t mean every set will return: it looks like the Fantastic Four may stay at their adopted home.
The Walt Disney Company is close to acquiring 21st Century Fox’s movie and TV divisions, namely 20th Century Fox. As one of Hollywood’s Big Six studios, 20th Century Fox has a vast library of content that will significantly bolster Disney’s expansive catalog, most notably their live-action slate that’s been heavily reliant upon Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios alongside live-action remakes and re-imaginings of Disney’s classic stories and characters. With Fox under their belt, Disney would control blockbuster franchises such as Alien, Avatar, and Kingsman, among others.
Read More: The Major Ramifications Of Disney Buying Fox
The Mouse House sees the potential in owning virtually one-third, if not more, of Hollywood and various aspects of the media industry, which would arguably (and adversely) embolden them to continue twisting theater chains’ arms across the US to agree to their outrageous distribution terms. That’s partially why many people believe the two companies uniting under one banner is distressing and can be potentially detrimental to the filmmaking industry. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a silver lining. If a deal goes through, comic book fans may finally get to see the X-Men fight alongside the Avengers on the big screen.
However, if Disney does indeed acquire 20th Century Fox, the mutant superhero team may be moving into the MCU without the Fantastic Four. Although it’s been long perpetuated that Fox owns the rights to Marvel’s First Family, they actually only license them; Fox doesn’t own the Fantastic Four, and they never have.
Who Really Owns The Fantastic Four Movie Rights? (This Page)
The History of the Fantastic Four Rights
In the 1970s and 1980s, comic book sales were steadily declining, and to save themselves from potential extinction, Marvel’s chiefs held a fire sale of their characters’ movie and TV rights, with most big-name titles landing at studios such as Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. But Stan Lee took it upon himself to find a special buyer for the Fantastic Four – arguably the most important superhero team in Marvel Comics’ history. In 1983, German producer Bernd Eichinger met Lee and eventually agreed to option (not purchase) the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer’s film rights (read: production rights) for $250,000 in 1986, and he would keep the rights so long as a movie for either property entered production by end of 1992.
Finding a studio willing to front $40-45 million (approximately $79 million in 2017 dollars), though, proved difficult for the producer, since comic book movies were tough sells at the time. As the story goes, Eichinger then tasked B-movie producer Roger Corman with making a low-budget Fantastic Four film, an ashcan copy, just so he and his company, Constantin Films, could retain the superhero team’s rights – and it worked, to an extent. The doomed 1994 Fantastic Four movie is the stuff of legend; a film that never released and only exists through illegal copies available online.
In 1993, shortly before Oley Sassone’s The Fantastic Four was scheduled to premiere in January 1994, Marvel Studios co-founder Avi Arad made an eleventh-hour purchase of the movie from Eichinger and subsequently had all copies destroyed, without even seeing the movie for himself, because he felt its release would damage the Fantastic Four and Marvel brand. Eichinger then began courting blockbuster directors to direct a big-budget Fantastic Four movie before the rights expired at the turn of the century, and that’s what led to the German producer forming a long-standing partnership with 20th Century Fox, due to the studio’s strong relationship with Marvel Studios on Bryan Singer’s X-Men film.
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