A collage of the red Marvel Studios logo in the background of the Walt Disney Pictures castle logo
Image by Walt Disney Pictures/Marvel Studios/ Remix by Christian Bone

When did Disney buy Marvel?

The acquisition that changed Hollywood forever.

Disney is the most profitable studio in Hollywood, but there’s no question it owes every ounce of that title to Marvel and its Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

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In the years since Robert Downey Jr. crawled out of that cave in the first Iron Man movie as Tony Stark and became the founding father of what would then be known as the Infinity Saga, Marvel Studios has become the backbone of the box office, bringing in nearly $30 billion across its 32 movies (33 including The Marvels) — more than any other film franchise in history, forever altering Hollywood’s DNA. 

At first, it was uncertain how a spandexed cinematic universe would fare, given Marvel’s rocky history and the state of superhero cinema at the time. In 1996, Marvel had filed for bankruptcy under the leadership of Ron Perelman. Marvel Studios was still a wish upon a star, and the company was working overtime to win back the rights to some of its most popular characters, such as Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, and Thor. Then, in 2007 Kevin Feige was brought on board as president of the studio and everything changed. 

Iron Man made $585.8 million at the box office in 2008, more than anyone expected at the time. Disney saw this and leaped at the opportunity to cash in on the multi-billion dollar oil well sitting before it. 

When did Disney buy Marvel, and for how much? 

Many people assume Disney already owned Marvel when the idea for Iron Man was birthed, but the truth is Kevin Feige, Robert Downey Jr., and Iron Man director Jon Favreau were in cahoots long before Disney’s CEO Bob Iger came into the picture (Iron Man began filming in March 2007). The House of Mouse didn’t hop on board until 2009, the year after the film was released. 

Fully recognizing Marvel’s potential to dominate Hollywood, Disney bought the company for $4 billion, an eye-watching amount no matter what decade you’re in. Of course, $4 billion is a blip in the grand scheme of things now, what with the Avengers movies alone (Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity Wars, and Avengers: Endgame) conspiring to earn $7.7 billion by themselves, not even including the 28 other films in the franchise, many of which also earned over a billion dollars. 

Indeed, the Disney/Marvel merger can be described as one of the biggest, smartest, most profitable mergers in history. Whether the House of Mouse and House of Ideas can continue the momentum or crumble beneath the weight is, unfortunately, up in the air as of recent times. There’s no question, however, that Marvel’s stamp on Hollywood will last a lifetime.

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Cody Raschella
Cody Raschella is a Staff Editor who has been with WGTC since 2021. He is a closeted Swiftie (shh), a proud ‘Drag Race’ fan (yas), and a hopeless optimist (he still has faith in the MCU). His passion for writing has carried him across various mediums including journalism, copywriting, and creative writing, the latter of which has been recognized by Writer’s Digest. He received his bachelor's degree from California State University, Northridge.