Disney Takes Over Marvel Movie Franchise Rights

Mouse House Gets Distribution From Paramount for 'Avengers,' 'Iron Man 3' Starting in 2012

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Looks like Disney's $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment is starting to bear fruit. Today, Walt Disney Pictures announced it would acquire the distribution rights to 2012's "The Avengers" and 2013's "Iron Man 3" from Paramount, cutting short an expected five-year relationship that began in 2008 with "Iron Man." 

Paramount served as worldwide distributor of the first two "Iron Man" films, and will still release Marvel's "Thor" and "Captain America" films as planned next summer.

Disney will pay Paramount a total of $115 million for the distribution rights, with half made payable on each film's respective release date, to "serve as a minimum guarantee against the distribution fees." While $57.5 million just to distribute a single film is a hefty sum, it may eventually seem like a bargain considering "Iron Man's" worldwide take of $585 million and "Iron Man 2's" $621 million haul (to date), each coming with a production budget in the $150 million to $200 million range.

Plus, Marvel has gotten friendly with Madison Avenue, taking marketing partnerships in-house this year for "Iron Man 2." The promotional campaign enlisted more than 10 brand partners that collectively spent $100 million of their own money in media buys, retail tie-ins and giveaways to help Paramount and Marvel spread the word about the summer sequel. Disney's new marketing chief, M.T. Carney, who recently told Ad Age of her plans to create "brand leads" for each of the studio's divisions, just tapped Marvel's worldwide marketing chief Dana Justice to assist in the marketing strategy for the company's upcoming slate.

Acquiring those two hotly anticipated films should also help Disney take advantage of the consumer products and promotional blitz prepared for the upcoming "Avengers" films. Marvel Entertainment's consumer products chief, Paul Gitter, recently told Ad Age of the studio's plans for a full line of action figures, vehicles and role-playing items from Hasbro; arts and crafts products from Crayola; die-cast toy vehicles and play sets from Maisto; and footwear from Brown Shoe, among other partners. Additional licensees include Fruit of the Loom, Kids Headquarters, AME and Jem Sportswear.

"The Avengers" should also help Disney steal some box-office market share come 2012. As of second quarter 2010, Paramount was leading the studio crop with 26.1% market share thanks largely to "Iron Man 2" and its shared distribution revenue from DreamWorks' "How To Train Your Dragon" and "Shrek Forever After," according to Box Office Mojo. Disney trailed at No. 2 with 16.1% market share thanks to "Alice In Wonderland" and "Toy Story 3" but was bogged down by disappointments such as "Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time." Expect the tentpoles to get heated again next summer as Disney's fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel and "Cars 2" from Pixar open while Paramount will prep Marvel's "Thor" and "Captain America" as well as its own "Transformers 3."

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