Brief History of Marvel and How Much Money it Makes

I love film whether its domestic, foreign, independent or a big budget blockbuster series. Marvel releases about 3 movies every year and sets the standard for action comedies. Marvel movies are some of the highest grossing films in the world and so I decided to write an article about how much moolah they really make. Since this post is primarily fact based it will mainly be comprised of charts, so if you don’t want to read my commentary then feel free to just check out the data.


Let’s start with the beginning 

Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion in 2009. Before the acquisition – Marvel would do movies with Disney on a contractual basis and there were no specific terms for a long-term partnership. Marvel films would also be produced and distributed with other production companies. Here is a list of all the Marvel comics that had been made into movies leading up to Disney’s acquisition.

Year Movie Year  Movie 
1986 Howard the Duck 2004 Spider-Man 2
1989 The Punisher 2004 Blade: Trinity
1990 Captain America 2005 Elektra
1994 The Fantastic Four 2005 Fantastic Four
1998 Blade 2006 X-Men: The Last Stand
2000 X-Men 2007 Ghost Rider
2002 Blade II 2007 Spider-Man 3
2002 Spider-Man 2007 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
2003 Daredevil 2008 Iron Man
2003 X2 2008 The Incredible Hulk
2003 Hulk 2008 Punisher: War Zone
2004 The Punisher 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine

You’ll recognize most of the names and can probably remember that some were good, some bad, but it was a completely disconnected series of films except for the trilogies including X-men and Spiderman. At the time most people didn’t know what Marvel actually was and simply just put all of these films with other superhero movies into one basket.

Disney Reviving the Marvel Universe

This all changed in 2009 when Disney pulled the trigger and bought Marvel for $4 billion. The acquisition is said to have been motivated by Robert Downey Jr’s successful Iron Man film, which gave Disney executives the confidence that the formula could be duplicated with other characters. Iron Man represented the resurgence of a forgotten actor in RDJ and the beginning of the Marvel Universe. Since Disney’s acquisition of Marvel – they have created the following movies.

Year Movie Year  Movie 
2010 Iron Man 2 2014 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
2011 Thor 2014 The Amazing Spider-Man 2
2011 X-Men: First Class 2014 X-Men: Days of Future Past
2011 Captain America: The First Avenger 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy
2012 Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron
2012 The Avengers 2015 Ant-Man
2012 The Amazing Spider-Man 2015 Fantastic Four
2013 Iron Man 3 2016 Deadpool
2013 The Wolverine 2016 Captain America: Civil War
2013 Thor: The Dark World 2016 X-Men: Apocalypse

Now these movies, I guarantee you recognize because every single one made money at the box office, even Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider…This collection represents the power of Disney to make quality action films.

Disney Has No Plans of Stopping

With the amount of money these films have made (that I still havent discussed, don’t worry it’s coming up next) Disney will be ramping up production. Marvel has also completed the origin stories for most of these characters in individual films, so they will be able to drop in superhero support for all new stories moving forward. This setup is beneficial for less known superhero characters, like the Black Panther, because Marvel can drop in RDJ’s Iron Man to bolster buzz around the film. Please check out Marvels pipeline moving forward and note that this list is as of 9/3/2016.

Year Movie  Year  Movie
Future Doctor Strange Future Black Panther
Future Untitled Wolverine film Future Avengers: Infinity War
Future Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Future Ant-Man and the Wasp
Future Spider-Man: Homecoming Future Captain Marvel
Future Marvel Studios Future Untitled Avengers film
Future Thor: Ragnarok Future Avengers – Xmen crossover???      (I wish)

As you can see Marvel is continuing to add characters to its Universe and will certainly have crossover in the films moving forward.

Finally the $$$

In total Marvel films have grossed $8.7 Billion in the United States and $21 Billion worldwide in ticket sales. This includes films since before Disney’s acquisition of Marvel, so not all this cash has gone to Disney, but you can still rest easy knowing that Disney has made back its money. Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Marvel’s Avengers together grossed $5.2 Billion in ticket sales. Each film’s budget was roughly $200 Million with maybe an extra $100 Million in marketing and other miscellaneous expenses totally $300 Million. That means that these 4 movies alone, paid for the acquisition of Marvel and this is only looking at ticket sales, excluding all merchandising and amusement park residual revenue. Please see the chart below, which shows Marvels top ticket revenue producing movies.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading about how Disney has turned a historic American comic franchise into a cash cow that entertains the world. An interesting side-note for Disney is that Marvel was not its first notable studio acquisition, but that Steve Jobs’ Pixar came first. Disney Studios was struggling with creating successful animation characters and constantly fell flat while Pixar was dominating the industry. After several licensing deals Pixar sold out to Disney, which freed up Steve Jobs time so he could recreate Apple. – Anyway, back to the point of this article – check out the list of all Marvel films and their box office numbers below.

Marvel Movie Worldwide Theater Earnings Domestic Theater Earnings
Marvel’s The Avengers $1,518,594,910 $623,357,910
Avengers: Age of Ultron $1,398,858,115 $457,358,115
Iron Man 3 $1,215,439,994 $409,013,994
Captain America: Civil War $1,147,698,026 $401,946,213
Spider Man 3 $890,871,626 $404,040,954
Spider Man $821,708,551 $403,706,375
Spider Man 2 $783,766,341 $373,585,825
Deadpool $778,618,148 $363,071,095
Guardians of the Galaxy $774,176,600 $333,176,600
The Amazing Spider-Man $757,930,663 $262,030,663
X-Men: Days of Future Past $748,121,534 $233,921,534
Captain America: The Winter Soldier $714,766,572 $259,766,572
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 $708,982,323 $202,853,933
Big Hero 6 $652,105,443 $222,505,443
Thor: The Dark World $644,783,140 $206,362,140
Iron Man 2 $623,933,331 $312,433,331
Iron Man $585,174,222 $318,412,101
X-Men: Apocalypse $524,089,004 $151,480,912
Ant Man $518,585,201 $180,157,872
X-Men: The Last Stand $459,359,555 $234,362,462
Thor $449,326,618 $181,030,624
The Wolverine $414,828,246 $132,556,852
X2: X-Men United $407,711,549 $214,949,694
X-Men Origins: Wolverine $373,062,864 $179,883,157
Captain America: The First Avenger $370,569,774 $176,654,505
X-Men: First Class $353,624,124 $146,408,305
Fantastic Four (2005) $330,579,719 $154,696,080
X-Men $296,339,527 $157,299,717
The Incredible Hulk $263,427,551 $134,806,913
Hulk $245,360,480 $132,177,234
Ghost Rider $228,738,393 $115,802,596
Daredevil $179,179,718 $102,543,518
Fantastic Four (2015) $167,977,597 $56,117,547
Blade II $155,010,032 $82,348,319
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance $132,563,930 $51,774,002
Blade $131,183,530 $70,087,718
Blade: Trinity $128,905,366 $52,411,906
Elektra $56,681,566 $24,409,722
The Punisher $54,700,105 $33,810,189
Howard the Duck $37,962,774 $16,295,774
Punisher: War Zone $10,100,036 $8,050,977
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