There is no other movie studio that works quite like Marvel. While DC and Warner Brothers have attempted to emulate their business model, the connection that this superhero brand has with its audience is entirely unique in the 21st century. What began as a standalone 2008 title picture would soon spawn into an entire franchise that is closing in on 20 movies with more to come.
The Jon Favreau film Iron Man would pave the way for a new commercial approach from a Hollywood studio. They would use the profile of Robert Downey Jr. to front the Tony Stark character, allowing that moment to build an entire world that transitioned from movies to television series and animated shorts.
What gave Marvel the opportunity to take their cinematic empire to the next level was allowing The Walt Disney Company to acquire the business. On August 31, 2009, Disney would purchase the organization and their intellectual property in a deal worth $4 billion. The merger ensured the long-term viability of the brand.
It would be the foundation for the superhero outlet to create films, television series and comics under the umbrella of Disney, leveraging their collective assets worth $63 billion at the time of the deal. Why try and go solo when there is a well-established company that can finance the entire project?
The key for Marvel to revolutionize their franchise was to empower one figure to oversee the direction of the setup. This would be found in the form of Kevin Feige. The Boston native would take the mantle of President of Marvel Studios and become the Chief Creative Officer of the studio. His background as an associate producer with X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2002 illustrated his skill and passion for Marvel properties on the big screen.
His involvement would allow Marvel to carefully plan the production and release of each film at specific stages. Iron Man in 2008 would just be the beginning. What would follow would be Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, The Avengers and a host a sequels. Create control would be overseen by Feige, ensuring that there was a consistent approach while giving each movie its own unique flavor and appeal.
Crossovers are a key ingredient that Marvel have been very savvy about. A third Captain America installment can be the perfect vehicle to introduce Black Panther for its upcoming release two years later. Thor: Ragnarok can be teased during the end credits of Doctor Strange. Ant-Man was brought into the picture at the conclusion of Captain America and The Winter Soldier. These lead-ins are designed to build anticipation and provide Easter eggs for fans who follow all of the intricate details of the storyline, building towards the climax of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: End Game.
The transition to online television streaming might feel like a step backwards for a studio that have grossed more than $25 billion at the box office, but Marvel understands that there is a bigger picture at play. The advent of Disney Plus has given them a vehicle to expand this world and entice new fans who would otherwise be staying at home and flicking through their catalogue on the couch. Feige would oversee the development of Loki, Falcon and The Winter Soldier and WandaVision among other properties to be released around 2021.
What really changed about Hollywood with the intervention of Marvel is how it creates and sells its properties to the wider consumer. It is not enough to get viewers interested in a single movie or a single television show, but to be invested in the entire world they have created through the franchise. Thanks to intertwining storylines that jump across properties, moviegoers and streamers can feel left out if they have not seen the previous installment. That approach has given an incentive to other studios to copy the blueprint.