Before Marvel Studios was making billions of dollars at the box office, Marvel Comics was struggling to make a profit. Under the new leadership of Ike Perlmutter, Marvel Entertainment tried to make multiple studio deals to sell off the film rights to multiple characters, so they could stay afloat.
Wall Street Journal’s Ben Fritz has revealed an excerpt from his book The Big Picture on Twitter that reveals one of these deals from twenty years ago.
Perlmutter and Sony’s Yari Landau were working on a deal for Spider-Man, then Ike attempted to lump in characters such as Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Black Panther and more with the low-ball price tag of $25 million. The Sony executive balked at the idea they’d want any characters other than Spider-Man.
At the time, Kevin Feige was busy working alongside Donner Company’s Lauren Shuler Donner on Fox’s first X-Men movie and it would be years later before his hiring and Marvel Studios was formed.
The franchise has currently earned an epic $13.5 billion at the worldwide box office, this doesn’t include money made from merchandise, licensing, and home/digital release earnings.
Black Panther (one of the characters offered to Sony in that deal) opens this weekend is eyeing at a domestic opening of between $150-170 million which aims to break multiple box office records.
It seems laughable neither Perlmutter and Landau had any vision or proper valuation at the time, even more so as Sony turned down the $25M bargain. Disney would eventually spend $4 billion when they bought Marvel, their return on that original investment is gigantic.
2018 marks the 10th Anniversary of Marvel Studios and Disney/Marvel should be count their lucky stars that they landed Kevin Feige when they did.
Now, Disney (Marvel’s owner) is looking to purchase 21st Century Fox which includes studios such as 20th Century Fox and it looks like Sony is going to sell their film division to potential buyers. It’s an interesting juxtapose when looking back to how Marvel was struggling back in 1998 and how successful they are now while major Hollywood studios are being sold off.