The Marvel Cinematic will culminate this year when Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters in May, marking ten years of trilogies, super films, and a few odd balls. But, boy, could things have been different.
A new report from the Wall Street Journal claims Sony came this close to owning the rights of characters like Iron Man, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Thor, and many others. But, as the story goes, Marvel’s asking price was too rich for Sony back in 1998.
So, how much did Marvel want? A paltry $25 million, which is a drop in a bucket in today’s landscape of cinematic universes. Disney wound up taking control for $4 billion.
Here’s how things went down, according to the report:
In 1998, a young Sony Pictures executive named Yair Landau was tasked with securing the theatrical screen rights to Spider-Man. His company had DVD rights to the web slinger but needed the rest in order to make a movie.
Marvel Entertainment, then only a famed name in the comic-book world, had just begun trying to make film deals. The company was fresh out of bankruptcy and desperate for cash, so its new chief, Ike Perlmutter, responded with a more audacious offer. Sony, he countered, could have the movie rights to nearly every Marvel character—Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Black Panther and more—for $25 million.
In hindsight, that seems absurdly cheap. At the time, though, Landau was only interested in Spider-Man, saying no one “gives a sh*t about any of the other Marvel characters.” That couldn’t be further from the truth, as the insane box office success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has shown. To date, the MCU has garnered over $13 billion at the box office.
What’s ironic is, years later, Sony would make a deal with Marvel Studios for Spider-Man to appear in the MCU. This whole time Sony could have been in control, but its leadership wasn’t prescient enough to envision what a larger universe with Iron Man, Black Panther, and others could’ve been.