The year is 2009. Marvel is just getting started with producing its own movies. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk both hit theaters in 2008, with the rest of what would become Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe set to arrive in the years to come. But it was on December 31, 2009 that everything changed, as that's the day that Disney officially purchased Marvel in a landmark deal that, not to overstate things, changed the entertainment landscape for the next decade, if not forever.
Disney initially announced the deal on August 31, 2009. It was valued at more than $4 billion and would fold all of Marvel under the Disney umbrella. For years, Marvel had faced its ups and downs, with financial woes getting in the way. At one point in the 90s, the company had been forced to sell the theatrical rights to many of its marquee characters to studios such as Sony and Universal. Yet, Disney saw quite a bit of value in the future, given the hit that Iron Man proved to be at the box office, with the makings of an entire cinematic universe on the backburner.
On December 31, 2009, the Disney Marvel deal was approved and the rest is, as they say, history. Marvel had previously entered into an agreement with Paramount Pictures to distribute the movies they produced. That deal extended through Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, which all proved to be various degrees of successful for Paramount. But Disney began to distribute Marvel Studios releases starting with 2012's The Avengers, and that was truly the moment that everything changed. When everything clicked. When the world saw the power of this grand experiment that had started four years earlier.
The movie went on to shatter various box office records at the time on its way to $1.51 billion at the global box office. Director Joss Whedon successfully brought together several independent franchises and united them in a major blockbuster event. Under the direction of Kevin Feige, who has since gone on to become the Chief Creative Office at Marvel and is one of the most successful producers ever, Disney's MCU went on to become a $20 billion global box office behemoth. Rival studios have tried to emulate its success, with varying degrees of success. Or, in the case of something like the Dark Universe, epic degrees of failure.
2019 alone saw the release of Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home, both of which crossed the $1 billion mark globally. Most importantly, Avengers: Endgame brought the end of a full decade worth of MCU storytelling and went on to become the highest-grossing movie in history. Disney's initial $4 billion investment has paid off handsomely, to say the very least of it.
In the years that followed, Disney made a series of other splashy acquisitions, most notably Lucasfilm in 2012, putting them in control of Star Wars, as well as their $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox. That merger effectively made Disney one of the most powerful media corporations in history. For better or for worse, much of that is thanks to the success of the Marvel deal, which is arguably one of the best business decisions in Hollywood history. This news was previously reported by Comicbook.com.