How Marvel Went From Bankrupt to Billions

After the comic book bubble burst in the mid-1990’s, Marvel was forced to declare bankruptcy and the future looked bleak for the comic-centric behemoth. However, after some shrewd business maneuvers, and a bit of good fortune, the company was able to restructure itself and enter the film business with wild success. Today, Ignitia takes a look at how the New York-based company was able to rise from the ashes to achieve heroic success.

The Darkest Hour

When the company went bankrupt, it was forced to sell-off film rights of some of its most popular franchises. This explains why even though Marvel created them, FOX makes X-Men movies, and Sony makes Spider-Man movies. This was not the case with comics books and television however, and explains why Spider-Man can appear alongside Wolverine in a comic, but not a movie… yet. As part of the rights sale however, Marvel included a clause that stated that if the company they sold the rights to did not make a movie with the character within seven years, the rights could then return to Marvel for a repurchase. This is what happened with Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. After Universal bought the rights to Hulk and failed to make a sequel to the 2003 Ang Lee film, the likeness rights returned to Marvel, but Universal retained distribution rights, which explains why no Hulk stand-alone film is presently in the works.

A Studio in Tatters

At the end of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the first signs of just the how lucrative Marvel properties could be at the box office were beginning to be seen. In 1998, New Line Cinema released, Blade. The film was a smash hit, and grossed $131 million at the box office. Two years later in 2000, FOX came out with it’s own smash, X-Men, which grossed $296 million. Then two years later, Sony answered with Spider-Man, and blew the competition away grossing $821 million. The feeding frenzy was on.

A Glimmer of Hope

Over the next six years, Marvel watched its competitors reap billions from its own properties. In 2005, in the wake of the burgeoning superhero boom, Marvel was able to convince Merrill Lynch to finance the production of a series of films based on the last remaining properties it retained the rights to: Thor and Captain America. There was only one catch: if the films didn’t make money, Merrill Lynch would acquire the rights to the properties and presumably sell them off to the highest bidder. It was the last chance for Marvel, but a chance it had to take. So, with the deal in place, Merrill extended Marvel $525 million to make its movies.

Iron Man to the Rescue

The first strategic move Marvel made was to repurchase the rights to, Iron Man. After the rights were repurchased from New Line Cinema, Marvel began preparation for the first major motion picture of the new era, Iron Man. Iron Man had already passed through several major studios without being made when Marvel reacquired it. After watching those very same studios reap untold riches from the rights it had sold to them, Marvel was finally able to enter the game. Being so far behind for so long, and with so much riding on it, Marvel knew it had to knock this first motion picture out of the park. And knock it out of the park it did. When Iron Man was released in 2008, it exploded onto the scene to the tune of $585 million. It was clear to everyone, a new force in the superhero movie universe had emerged.

The Bright, Bright Future

Then in 2009, realizing the growing height of superhero movies, and the great position Marvel had established, Disney bought Marvel for over $4 billion. The purchased was extremely wise for Disney. Over the next seven years, Marvel put out four of the top fifteen highest grossing films of all-time: Captain America: Civil War ($1.1 billion), Iron Man 3 ($1.2 billion), The Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1.4 billion), and The Avengers ($1.5 billion). Along with these also came the tremendously successful franchises of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as several franchise-promising stand-alone films such as, Ant Man. Now, with the ability of characters to cross-over, and a new home at major studio, Marvel is poised to take its successes to even greater heights. With such promising hits as the newly released smash hit, Black Panther, and the upcoming Infinity Wars, as well as bringing FOX (and thus, the X-Men) under its own Disney umbrella, Marvel looks positioned to continue its superhero like rise well into the 21st century.

 

 

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