Everyone is laughing at eBay nowadays. Years ago it “bought” Skype for a couple of billion dollars, but now it’s being sued by the seller for copyright infringement. Apparently, despite spending billions, eBay bought nothing. It merely licensed the right to use Skype’s technology.

You have to ask, how could eBay have been so incredibly stupid to spend billions of dollars on essentially nothing? Well, it appears that Disney did the exact same thing.

As we’ve all heard by now, Disney bought Marvel for about 4 billion dollars. At first blush it seems like a deal made in heaven. Disney makes movies and superhero movies are hot right now.

However, due to prior contracts Marvel had with other movie studios, Disney is essentially unable to make any Marvel superhero movies for a very long time, maybe even forever.

For example, Sony has a perpetual right to make Spider-Man and Ghost Rider movies.

20th Century Fox has a perpetual right to make movies involving the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra, Silver Surfer, Kingpin, Dr. Doom, Bullseye, and all of the mutants who have appeared in the X-Men movies.

Universal Pictures has a perpetual right to make Hulk movies. (And if you think Disney can use Marvel characters in its theme parks, think again. Universal has that right, in perpetuity, for its own theme parks.)

So who’s left? Paramount Pictures only has the right to distribute the upcoming Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man 3 movies. So in about ten years Disney would be set to go on its own. If superhero movies are still popular in ten years.

And that’s a big if. If Disney bought Marvel for the long haul, in hopes of making Superhero movies way off in the future, I think the plan will fail. Superheroes are big now because the baby boomers grew up with them. That’s why superhero movies are always rated R and hard PG-13. Because they’re made for adults. The adults who grew up with them.

In ten, twenty years no one is going to give a rip about Spider-Man. Much in the same way no one gives a rip about Cowboy and Indian movies. Genres die. It’s a fact of life in Hollywood.

Still, if Disney doesn’t want to wait it can dig deep in Marvel’s vault and release a Doctor Bong movie. How about Forbush Man? Ruby Thursday?

Let’s face it, Disney got screwed.

  1. Thomas says:

    While on the surface your premise seems reasonable, there are many possibilities that you might be overlooking:

    1. There are many exhibition rights of which cinematic is only one. What about video, free tv, pay tv, internet…

    2. The rights might include all distribution mediums but not include the creation of TV content such a new children’s series or even made-for-tv movies.

    3. Do the contracts cover worldwide distribution or only domestic?

  2. MikeN says:

    >But Universal Has the rights to Hulk and Hulk was one of the original Avengers and can’t be in the Avengers movies now. Nice Management.

    No, they’re putting them all in. It’s why Robert Downey shows up at the end of The Hulk.

  3. RSweeney says:

    Surely Disney can call on their pals in Washington and get these contracts nullified.

  4. bkressin says:

    Your post on Disney’s take over of Marvel offers an intriguing argument. I especially liked your analogy to eBay that, “despite spending billions, eBay bought nothing. It merely licensed the right to use Skype’s technology.” I actually cannot think of a better way to explain the take over myself, particularly because of the new developments involving Jack Kirby’s estate. Why Disney would want to buy the rights to characters that have already been made into franchises through other studios does not make much sense, unless of course they had planned to produce future movies themselves, such as Captain America, The Avengers, and Thor.

    You point out that “in about ten years Disney would be set to go on its own”. However, the notices of copy right termination from Jack Kirby’s camp will become effective as soon as 2014 (http://www.bleedingcool.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6068). The validity of the copy right termination of characters co-created by Jack Kirby would not only cause inconvenience for Disney and Marvel but also any film studio that has made movies using Kirby’s characters. Production for The Avengers, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man 3 would have to come to an end. No doubt, Kirby’s heirs are most likely put out about missing out on a piece of the $4 billion Disney paid Marvel, especially since Kirby’s characters are by far the most popular.

    You bring up valid points about superhero movies being geared towards adults, but I have to disagree with you that the super hero genre is dying out. True, it is possible that “in ten, twenty years no one is going to give a rip about Spider-Man”, but that is why remakes and reinventions of old characters can generate so much success. Take the newly franchised Batman as an example. The first Batman was released in 1989 and there is still as much, if not more, buzz and excitement about the Batman Begins series as there was ten years ago for the original film. For the time being it certainly seems that Marvel has become a trophy for Disney to put on the shelf, but as time progresses it could very well find a niche in the Disney brand if approached correctly.

  5. jesusj124y6 says:

    yeah man will still love the comics

  6. Disney’s not dumb, so they must have something up their sleeve…

    Maybe the boomers grew up with the comics, but Generation Y and the current generation have grown up with the cartoons, and even though a lot of the movies are rated PG-13, kids still see them today. So that means there will be superhero fans for quite a few years to come. The thing that will stop hero movies from being made is if people get sick of seeing Peter Parker being bitten by a Spider (eg, 2012 Spider-Man reboot).


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