Marvel Studios, originally Marvel Films, is an American television and motion picture studio based in Manhattan Beach, California. Marvel Studios is a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, a self-contained part of the The Walt Disney Company conglomerate.

Since 2008, the studio has released five independently produced films with shared timeline, cast and characters, making up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


The first film 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 21 August 1998, grossing $70,087,718 in the United States and Canada and $131,183,530 worldwide. In 1999, Marvel licensed Spider-man to Sony.

Blade was followed by X-Men, which was directed by Bryan Singer and was released on 14 July 2000. X-Men grossed $157,299,717 in the United States and Canada and $296,250,053 worldwide. The Marvel films Blade and X-Men demonstrated that blockbuster 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, to give the studio rights to 15 Marvel characters including Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Iron Fist, and Deadpool. With the deal at the time, 24 Marvel properties were then in various stages of development. Brian Cunningham, editor of Wizard comic book magazine, believed that Avi Arad was successful in organizing strategic alliances and exercising fiscal responsibility in multimedia expansion. Cunningham said of Arad’s leadership of the studio following its parent company’s near-bankruptcy, “The fact the X-Men is primed to be the biggest movie of the summer speaks volumes about the turnaround for Marvel. From my observation, he’s focused on a lot more in diversifying Marvel, doing things that proliferate Marvel characters in the mainstream.” Arad sought to protect Marvel’s image by serving as executive producer in all Marvel film productions and being responsible for crossover marketing between Marvel properties. Arad had properties set up at different studios to create momentum so one studio would not cannibalize efforts with one property for the sake of another. By 2001, the success of Marvel Entertainment’s Ultimate Marvel comics created leverage in Hollywood for Marvel Studios, pushing more properties into development.

The next blockbuster 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 3 May 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.

In producing Marvel films in the 2000s, Avi Arad sought to capture the superheroes’ internal conflicts. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Arad’s great accomplishment – and it is one, given the difficulties in transferring any kind of printed material to the big screen – is conveying what makes those heroes tick as characters… He works with the filmmakers to ensure that the heroes are conflicted, the villains motivated, the outcome shaded.” 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.

Partnering with Lionsgate Entertainment in 2004, Marvel Studios plan to enter the direct-to-DVD market with eight animated films with Lionsgate handling distribution.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 Studio as he had a plan for the Studios to self-fianced movies. Marvel entered into a non-recourse financing structure with Merrill Lynch Commercial Finance Corp. that is collateralized by certain movie rights to a total of 10 characters from Marvel’s vast vault. Marvel gets $525 million to make a maximum of 10 movies based on the company’s properties over eight years, according to the parameters of the deal with Paramount Pictures in September 2004. Those characters were: Ant-Man, The Avengers, Black Panther, Captain America, Cloak & Dagger, Doctor Strange, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Power Pack, Shang-Chi.Ambac insurance company insured the movies would succeed or they would pay the interest payment on the debt and get the movie rights collateral. 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 has regained the film rights to The Incredible Hulk in 2006. April 2006 Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to Thor from Sony. That year the film 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. Masiel and Arad fought over the rate of movie releases and strength of characters in the movie line up. Perlmutter supported Masiel 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 2008, 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. In January 2008, Marvel Animation was incorporated in January 2008 to direct Marvel’s efforts in animation and home entertainment markets including then animation efforts with Lionsgate and Nickelodeon. Marvel Entertainment named Eric Rollman as President of the company in April 2008.

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.

On 31 December 2009, The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Both Marvel and Disney have stated that the merger would not affect any preexisting deals with other film studios for the time being, although Disney said they will consider distributing future Marvel projects with their own studios once the current deals expire.

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First Published: Feb 5, 2012  –  Last Updated: Jan 27, 2013