The Walt Disney Company today issued a short news release confirming the long expected news that the studio was taking control of a number of Marvel Studios upcoming feature film releases.
When Disney bought Marvel in the fall of 2009, Paramount Pictures had a contract to distribute four more Marvel films: “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Avengers.” And while Disney publicly stood by that agreement, it was clear from those on the inside the Mouse House didn’t make such a dramatic investment to let its competitor across town take the box office glory associated with the popular “Iron Man” franchise. Even if a majority of the profit went to Disney. Now, the two sides appear to have come to a compromise.
According to the announcement, Paramount will continue to release “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” in 2011. After that point, Disney will distribute “The Avengers” and, publicly confirmed for the first time, “Iron Man 3.” “The Avengers” already has a previously announced release date of May 4, 2012.
In order to facilitate the new arrangement, Disney is paying Paramount what is in effect a $115 million kill fee to get out of the deal. Although, in order to make sure Paramount keeps its best efforts in the meantime, that won’t be paid out until after “Captain America” opens next year.
This is a smart move for Disney as it brings all the non-“Spider-Man,” “Fantastic Four” and “X-Men” franchises under their tent. The company already has an “Avengers” animated series debuting on Disney XD this week and is developing plans for Marvel characters to appear in Disney theme parks.
For Paramount, this isn’t good news in the long term. The company loses valuable franchises that will hurt its leverage with theater owners on the distribution side. It will have to hope for more “Transformers,” a rejuvenated “Mission Impossible” franchise and, possibly, a distribution deal with MGM if the Spyglass merger goes through.
“Thor” opens May 6, 2011. “Captain America: The First Avenger” debuts July 22, 2011. “The Avengers” is set for a May 4, 2012 release. “Iron Man 3” has a May 3, 2013 release date at this time.