Though the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently dominates the box office with each new release, there’s often a lot of confusion of how Marvel Studios actually works; how it came to be, and how it slots in with Marvel TV, Marvel Comics, and the larger world of Marvel Entertainment, is still a mystery to even die-hard fans.
The difference between Marvel and DC has always been debatable on the comics side, but as both companies have come to stake claims in the film and television landscapes it’s grown more pronounced. While DC Entertainment splits all up their stories, Marvel has consolidated more and more of their universe – despite the fact that their various production arms are separate. The split between Marvel Studios and Marvel Entertainment’s other branches has led to some major issues, from creative shake-ups to continuity errors. As it stands, the MCU timeline is a bit of a mess – even without taking into account the various TV shows said to fit within the universe.
But the inner workings of Marvel itself and its prolific and successful film studio is even more complex. If the past ten years of box office success has got confusing and you’ve always wondered how Marvel Studios really works, fret not – we’re here to explain.
- This Page: Marvel Studios Origins Before Disney
- Page 2: Marvel Studios Is Not Part of Marvel Entertainment
- Page 3: How Marvel Studios Operates
Marvel Studios Was Very Different Before Disney
Though many assume Marvel Studios began life with the birth of the MCU when Iron Man was released in the summer of 2008, they actually started some time before that. During the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, Marvel sold off the rights to many of their characters, leading to various heroes and villains currently being stuck with other studios. But in 1993, Marvel decided to take a more active role in their cinematic future and founded Marvel Films. Marvel subsidiary ToyBiz began playing a more active role, with Avi Arad becoming President and CEO of Marvel Films. In 1996, Marvel Films became Marvel Studios and Ike Perlmutter’s role in the company increased. It was under this new leadership that Marvel Studios began working to bring a number of characters to screen, culminating in 1998’s Blade being their first venture to arrive in theaters.
By 2004, David Maisel had a plan for Marvel to self-finance its films, becoming a proper movie studio in the process. He was named COO and helped secure funding for the new venture on the back of characters like Captain America, Shang-Chi, Black Panther, Cloak & Dagger, Power Pack, and others. 2005 then saw the new studio secure a distribution deal with Paramount, around which time the Iron Man, Thor, and Black Widow rights reverted back to Marvel. Bruce Banner also came home, though Universal retained first refusal rights – which has since held up future solo films for The Hulk.
How The Disney Deal Changed Everything
With Marvel Comics regaining popularity and Marvel Studios’ various film efforts netting them wins with the Blade, X-Men, and Spider-Man franchises, the company was once again a major success after declaring bankruptcy in the 1996. The debut of the MCU and the one-two punch of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 saw the worth of Marvel Entertainment and Studios skyrocket. In 2009, The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, a price tag many insiders scoffed at. But for Disney, the rise of Marvel and their film division was undeniable.
While Paramount continued to distribute Marvel films, 2011 saw Disney gain the rights for the in-development The Avengers and Iron Man 3. The release of the former ended its worldwide run with a box office haul of $1.5 billion, proving the success of the MCU and Marvel Studios wasn’t just a fluke and showed that Disney’s foresight was accurate. The backing of Disney also allowed Marvel to expand its media efforts, begin a television production company, and attract more and more top-tier creative talent to their films. Though Marvel Studios likely would have continued to be successful under Paramount, there’s no doubt that coming under the Disney umbrella catapulted the company and its films to new heights.
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