Marvel Studios, LLC (originally known as Marvel Films from 1993 to 1996) is an American film and television production company that is a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company. Marvel Studios is known for the production of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, based on characters that appear in Marvel Comics publications.
Since 2008, Marvel Studios has released 27 films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man (2008) to Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), and five television series since 2021, from WandaVision (2021) to Hawkeye (2021). The television series What If...? (2021) is the studio's first animated property. These films and television series all share continuity with each other, along with the One-Shots produced by the studio. The television series produced by Marvel Television also acknowledge the continuity.
In addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios was also involved with the production of other Marvel-character film franchises that have exceeded $1 billion in North American box office revenue, including the X-Men and Spider-Man multi-film franchises.
Marvel Studios is also producing television series airing on Disney+, and is overseeing production for remaining Marvel Television series following its folding into Marvel Studios.
During what is known as Marvel's Timely era, Captain America was licensed out to Republic Pictures for a serial just for the free advertising. Timely failed to provide any drawing of Captain America with his shield or any further background, and Republic created a whole new background for the character, and portrayed the character using a gun.
Marvel Entertainment Group era
From the late 1970s through the early 1990s, Marvel Entertainment Group (MEG) sold options to studios to produce films based on Marvel Comics characters. One of Marvel's superheroes, Spider-Man, was optioned in the late 1970s, and rights reverted to Marvel without a film having been produced within the allocated timeframe. From 1986 to 1996, most of Marvel's major characters had been optioned, including the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Daredevil, Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Iron Man. A Howard the Duck film made it to the screen in 1986, but was a box-office flop. MEG was purchased by New World Entertainment in November 1986 and moved to produce films based on the Marvel characters. It released The Punisher (1989) before MEG was sold to Ronald Perelman's Andrews Group. Two other films were produced: Captain America (1990) released in the United Kingdom on screens and direct to video in the United States, and The Fantastic Four (1994), not intended for release.
The logo used under the Marvel Films branding.
Following Marvel Entertainment Group's (MEG) ToyBiz deal in 1993, Avi Arad of ToyBiz was named president and CEO of Marvel Films division and of New World Family Filmworks, Inc., a New World Entertainment subsidiary. New World was MEG's former parent corporation and later a fellow subsidiary of the Andrews Group. Marvel Productions became New World Animation by 1993 as Marvel would start up Marvel Films including Marvel Films Animation. Marvel Films Animation shared Tom Tataranowicz with New World Animation as head of development and production. New World Animation (The Incredible Hulk), Saban (X-Men) and Marvel Films Animation (Spider-Man) each produced a Marvel series for television for the 1996–1997 season. It was Marvel Films Animation's only production. By the end of 1993, Arad and 20th Century Fox struck a deal to make a film based on the X-Men.
New World Animation and Marvel Films Animation were sold along with the rest of New World by Andrews Group to News Corporation/Fox as announced in August 1996. As part of the deal, Marvel licensed the rights to Captain America, Daredevil and Silver Surfer to be on Fox Kids Network and produced by Saban. New World Animation continued producing a second season of The Incredible Hulk for UPN.
In August 1996, Marvel created Marvel Studios, an incorporation of Marvel Films, due to the sale of New World Communications Group, Inc., Marvel's fellow Andrews Group subsidiary in film and television stations, to News Corporation/Fox. Filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to raise money to finance the new corporation, Marvel, Isaac Perlmutter's Zib, Inc. and Avi Arad sold Toy Biz stocks, which Marvel had started and took public in February 1995. Toy Biz filed an offering of 7.5 million shares with a closing price of $20.125 at the time, making the offering worth approximately $150 million. Toy Biz sought to sell 1 million shares, and Marvel sought to sell 2.5 million shares.
Jerry Calabrese, the president of Marvel Entertainment Group and Avi Arad, head of Marvel Films and a director of Toy Biz, were assigned tandem control of Marvel Studios. Under Calabrese and Arad, Marvel sought to control pre-production by commissioning scripts, hiring directors, and casting characters, providing the package to a major studio partner for filming and distribution. Arad said of the goal for control, "When you get into business with a big studio, they are developing a hundred or 500 projects; you get totally lost. That isn't working for us. We're just not going to do it anymore. Period." Marvel Studios arranged a seven-year development deal with 20th Century Fox to cover markets in the United States and internationally. In the following December, Marvel Entertainment Group went through a reorganization plan, including Marvel Studios as part of its strategic investment. By 1997, Marvel Studios was actively pursuing various film productions based on Marvel characters, including the eventual films X-Men (2000), Daredevil (2003), Elektra (2005) and Fantastic Four (2005). Unproduced projects included Prince Namor, based on the character Namor and to be directed by Philip Kaufman, and Mort the Dead Teenager, based on the comic book of the same name and written by John Payson and Mort creator Larry Hama. Marvel was developing a Captain America animated series with Saban Entertainment for Fox Kids Network to premiere in fall 1998. However, due to the bankruptcy the series was canceled after only character designs and a one-minute promotional reel were made.
The first film packaged and licensed by Marvel Studios was Blade, based on the vampire hunter Blade. The film was directed by Stephen Norrington and starred Wesley Snipes as Blade. It was released on August 21, 1998, grossing $70,087,718 in the United States and Canada and $131,183,530 worldwide.
Blade was followed by X-Men, which was directed by Bryan Singer and was released on July 14, 2000. X-Men grossed $157,299,717 in the United States and Canada and $296,250,053 worldwide. Blade and X-Men demonstrated that widely popular films could be made out of comic book characters not familiar to the general public.
Leading up to X-Men's release, Marvel Studios negotiated a deal with then-functional Artisan Entertainment, successful with the low-budget The Blair Witch Project, for a co-production joint venture that included rights to 15 Marvel characters including Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Iron Fist, and Deadpool. Artisan would finance and distribute while Marvel would develop licensing and merchandising tie-ins. The resulting production library, which would also include television series, direct-to-video films and internet projects, would be co-owned. By 2001, the success of Marvel Entertainment's Ultimate Marvel imprint comics created leverage in Hollywood for Marvel Studios, pushing more properties into development.
The next film licensed from Marvel Studios was Spider-Man by Columbia Pictures, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. The film was released on May 3, 2002, grossing $403,706,375 in the United States and Canada and $821,708,551 worldwide. The early success of Spider-Man led the film's studio to issue a seven-figure advance for a sequel. Arad spoke of the deal, "Movies make sequels. Therefore, it's a big economic luxury to know that a movie's going to get a second and third. This is a business of precedence." According to a Lehman Brothers analysis, the Studios made only $62 million for the first 2 Spider-Man movies. Marvel was making more from half the consumer product licensing fees while making relatively little from the movie, but was enough for Marvel to regain its financial footings. In October 2002, Marvel Studios announced deals for Sub-Mariner and Prime with Universal Studios.
In contrast to the original storylines of DC Comics' Superman and Batman films, Marvel films were more directly inspired by their comics, copying from them set pieces, scenes, plots, and dialogue.
In 2003, David Maisel approached Arad about earning Marvel more for their films. Maisel, Arad and Perlmutter met leading to Maisel being hired as president and COO. The studio's office, then on Santa Monica Boulevard, was small with a dozen or so staff members. Kevin Feige, later to become CEO, was then a junior executive generating script notes to the licensed studios. In January 2003, Marvel, the Sci-Fi Channel and Reveille Productions agreed to develop two pilot films based on Brother Voodoo and Strikeforce: Morituri.
Partnering with Lionsgate in 2004, Marvel Studios planned to enter the direct-to-DVD market with eight animated films with Lionsgate Home Entertainment handling distribution. The line was a proof of concept for Maisel's later plan. Eric Rollman was hired by Marvel as Executive Vice President, Home Entertainment & TV Production for Marvel Studios to oversee the deal with Lionsgate.
In 2004, David Maisel was hired as chief operating officer of Marvel Studios as he had a plan for the studio to self-finance movies. Marvel entered into a non-recourse debt structure with Merrill Lynch that was collateralized by certain movie rights to a total of 10 characters from Marvel's vast vault. Marvel got $525 million to make a maximum of 10 movies based on the company's properties over eight years, according to the parameters of the original deal. Those characters were: Ant-Man, The Avengers, Black Panther, Captain America, Cloak & Dagger, Doctor Strange, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Power Pack and Shang-Chi. Ambac insured the movies would succeed or they would pay the interest payment on the debt and get the movie rights collateral.
Initially Marvel Studios was in talks with Universal Pictures as a possible distributor, as Universal owned the film rights to both Hulk and Namor during that time. Negotiations dragged on, so the studio began talks with Paramount Pictures. In the second quarter of 2005, Merrill attempted to back out of full financing of each movie, demanding that Marvel finance 1/3 of the budget. Marvel took back rights in five foreign territories from Paramount for pre-sell to meet that demand. On September 6, 2005, Marvel announced the Merrill Lynch financing deal with Paramount was on as marketer and distributor. Also, the parent company changed its name from Marvel Enterprises, Inc. to Marvel Entertainment, Inc. to reflect the change to self-production.
The studio moved to a new location over a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Beverly Hills. Maisel was also named vice-chairman of the studio, but reported to Isaac Perlmutter. In October 2005, Michael Helfant joined the studio as president and chief operating officer.
In November 2005, Marvel gained the film rights to Iron Man from New Line Cinema. Marvel revealed that it had regained the film rights to Hulk from Universal in February 2006, in exchange for letting Universal own the distribution rights to The Incredible Hulk and the right of first refusal to pick up the distribution rights to any future Marvel Studios-produced Hulk films. In April 2006, Thor was announced to be a Marvel Studios production. Lions Gate Entertainment subsequently dropped the Black Widow motion picture project it had since 2004 giving the rights back to Marvel.
Maisel and Arad fought over the rate of movie releases and strength of characters in the movie line up. Perlmutter supported Maisel and thus, in May 2006, Arad quit as studio chair and CEO. In March 2007, David Maisel was named chairman and Kevin Feige was named president of production as Iron Man began filming.
In January 2008, Marvel Animation was incorporated to direct Marvel's efforts in animation and home entertainment markets including then animation efforts with Lionsgate and Nickelodeon. The company in March agreed to a five picture basic cable distribution with FX for Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk movies with the additional movies to be named later. In November, Marvel Studios signed a lease with Raleigh Studios to host its headquarters and production offices and film the next four movies on the studios' slate, including Iron Man 2 and Thor, at their Manhattan Beach facilities. By September 2008, Paramount added to its domestic film distribution contract 5 additional Marvel movies' foreign distribution.
In 2009, Marvel attempted to hire a team of writers to help come up with creative ways to launch its lesser-known properties, such as Black Panther, Cable, Iron Fist, Nighthawk, and Vision. In early 2009, Sony returned all Spider-Man television rights (including live-action) in exchange for an adjustment to the movie rights.
Disney conglomerate subsidiary
Former typeface logo (2013–2016)
On December 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Both Marvel and Disney stated that the merger would not affect any preexisting deals with other film studios for the time being, although Disney said they would distribute future Marvel projects with their own studio once the deals expired.
In April 2010, rumors circulated that Marvel was looking to create $20–40 million movies based on properties such as Doctor Strange, Ka-Zar, Luke Cage, Dazzler, and Power Pack. Kevin Feige responded by saying, while budgets are generally never discussed early in development, Marvel was considering films for all characters mentioned in the rumor, except Dazzler, whose rights were at Fox.
In June 2010, Marvel Entertainment set up a television division within Marvel Studios, headed up by Jeph Loeb as Executive Vice President, under which Marvel Animation would be operated. On October 18, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures acquired the distribution rights for The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount Pictures with Paramount's logo and credit remaining on those films.
On August 22, 2011, at Disney's behest, the Studio dismissed most of its marketing department: Dana Precious, EVP of Worldwide Marketing; Jeffrey Stewart, VP of Worldwide Marketing and Jodi Miller, Manager of Worldwide Marketing. Disney markets Marvel's films. In April 2012, The Walt Disney Company China, Marvel Studios and DMG Entertainment announced an agreement to co-produce Iron Man 3 in China. DMG partly financed, produced in China with Marvel, and handled co-production matters. DMG also distributed the film in China in tandem with Disney.
In April 2013, Marvel Studios moved its executive production offices from Manhattan Beach Studios Media Campus to The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.
On July 2, 2013, Disney purchased the distribution rights to Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger from Paramount. In September 2014, TNT acquired the cable rights for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and three other films, to air on the network two years after their theatrical releases. The films had previously aired on FX since 2008.
Walt Disney Studios subsidiary
In August 2015, Marvel Studios was placed into Walt Disney Studios, with Feige reporting directly to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn instead of Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter. Marvel Television and subsidiary Marvel Animation were left under Marvel Entertainment and Perlmutter's control.
The Frank G. Wells Building, the studio's home as of April 2017
As of April 2017, Marvel Studios was housed on the second floor of the Frank G. Wells Building at the Disney studio lot. Fast Company ranked Marvel Studios number eleven on its 2018 World's Most Innovative Companies list.
In September 2018, it was reported that Marvel Studios was developing several limited series for the streaming service Disney+, to be centered on "second tier" characters from the MCU films who had not and were unlikely to star in their own films. Characters being considered for series included Loki and Scarlet Witch, with the actors who portrayed the characters in the films expected to reprise their roles for the limited series. Each series was expected to be six to eight episodes, with a "hefty [budget] rivaling those of a major studio productions". The series would be produced by Marvel Studios rather than Marvel Television, with Feige taking a "hands-on role" in each series' development.
In October 2019, Feige was given the title of Chief Creative Officer, Marvel, and would oversee the creative direction of Marvel Television and Marvel Family Entertainment, with both being returned to being under the Marvel Studios banner. Two months later, Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios, with Marvel Studios overseeing development of all the Marvel Television series in production at the time of its closing. Karim Zreik, Marvel Television's senior vice president current programming and production, would join Marvel Studios alongside his team to oversee production of the Marvel Television series inherited by Marvel Studios.
In July 2021, ahead of the studio's first animated series What If...?, executive vice president of film production Victoria Alonso noted that Marvel Studios was creating an "animation branch and mini studio" to focus on more animated content beyond What If...?. Marvel Studios will outsource the animation for its animated series to third-party animation studios, though executive Brad Winderbaum indicated Marvel would work with fellow Disney studios Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios "under the right circumstances". In September 2021, Alonso was promoted to President of Physical, Post Production, VFX and Animation. In November 2021, Marvel Studios announced the animated series X-Men '97, which would be a revival of the 1990s animated series X-Men and set in that series' continuity.
Marvel had licensed out the film rights to many of their characters to other studios in the 1990s, starting with the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Daredevil and later Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, the Wasp, Black Widow, Luke Cage, Punisher, Blade, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing, Black Panther and Deadpool among others.
In February 2015, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment announced that Spider-Man would appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the character appearing in Captain America: Civil War and Sony releasing Spider-Man: Homecoming produced by Feige and Pascal on July 7, 2017. As part of the deal, Sony Pictures would continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films. In June 2015, Feige clarified that the initial Sony deal did not allow Spider-Man to appear in any of the MCU television series, as it was "very specific... with a certain amount of back and forth allowed."
In September 2019, it was announced that Disney and Sony had reached a new agreement allowing for Spider-Man to appear in a third standalone film (produced by Marvel Studios and Feige) and a future Marvel Studios film. Disney was reported to be co-financing 25% of the film in exchange for 25% of the film's profits in the new agreement, while retaining the merchandising rights to the character.