Black Panther just made $25 million on a Thursday night, so it may sound silly that somebody could have snatched up the film rights for all of Marvel’s characters for that same amount of money. But back in 1998, when Iron Man and Ant-Man weren’t exactly household names, Sony found themselves in the enviable position of being offered every Marvel character for a cool $25 million. “Nobody gives a shit about any of the other Marvel characters,” a wise corporate executive shouted, unaware that 20 years in the future he would be mocked and ridiculed for his shortsightedness. “Go back and do a deal for only Spider-Man.”
As detailed on CBR, Ben Fritz’s upcoming book The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies will include many more details on how Marvel Studios went from nearly giving away its bread and butter to topping $12 billion at the worldwide box office. It really can’t be stated enough that the masterminds behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Kevin Feige in particular) have an extraordinary knack for marketing and brand-awareness. There’s no telling what would have happened if these Marvel properties had been handled differently. The MCU may have stalled out after one or two films, like other Cinematic Universes that shan’t be named.
Marvel moved ahead with its own plans by releasing Iron Man in 2008, and since then they’ve had a string of successes the likes of which few (cough, Sony, cough) could have predicted. Little-known properties such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Dr. Strange have become household names, and the stunning success of Black Panther further cements the notion that Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are events that simply can’t be missed.
The next big event is Avengers: Infinity War, and even though the movie doesn’t hit theaters until May 4, it has probably made $25 million while this article was being typed.