This past weekend, the adventure movie The Avengers opened across theaters in the United States. This post is not about the movie or how it shattered opening weekend box office records, but rather just a comment on how Disney made its investment in Marvel entertainment payoff.
Now, if you only think of Disney in terms of Disneyland, Mickey Mouse and animation, you’ve missed the boat. Disney is the largest media corporation in the world. Disney owns and operates the ABC television network, ESPN, the A&E networks, Radio Disney, cruise lines, vacation clubs, resorts and 14 theme parks across the world and of course, its own animation and movie studios including Pixar.
In August of 2009 Disney announced it would buy Marvel Entertainment. In this post, I applauded the deal saying that it was a great thing for consumers because it would give the “House the Mouse Built” new comic book properties it could develop and work with. And it certainly has. Since its acquisition by Disney, Marvel has become the highest grossing movie franchise of all time.
There are two giants in the comic book industry: Marvel is one and DC is the other. Both comic book houses are now owned by “movie studios.” DC comics is owned by Time Warner. Warner Brothers studios has made impressive inroads on television, both live-action and animation, with the DC properties for decades. Both comic book houses have formidable superheroes. DC comics has Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman along with the Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. Marvel comics has Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk. Frankly, DC probably has better known heroes, but Marvel has done the better job of putting those heroes successfully on the big screen. Since Disney’s acquisition in 2009, the subsequently released Marvel movies (Iron man 2, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Captain America: the First Avenger, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and the opening weekend of The Avengers) have collectively grossed more than $1 billion in ticket sales (and that doesn’t count tie-in merchandising). That’s not a bad return on investment for a company purchased for only $4 billion.
There is little doubt that the DC heroes may rule the television airwaves, but the Marvel heroes are ruling the box office and making Disney a ton of money in the process.