Marvel's future parade of comicbook stars.
In the near future, Marvel Entertainment has a whole slate of movies scheduled to come out, all of them based on their comic characters and all of them potentially lucrative franchises in the making. Of course while some of these future Marvel films will most likely be easily predictable successes, such as the upcoming Iron Man 2 and the eventual Marvel Avengers movie (assuming it includes an appearance by Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Tony stark/Iron Man), a number of them are not so easily predictable successes in the making. Among these feature projects would have to be included the upcoming Marvel films Thor, Ant-Man and The First Avenger: Captain America.
A future not so certain.
While each of these films could end up being big box office bonanzas for Marvel and end up filling their coffers, they could just as easily end up dissapointing their target audiences and subsequently dissapoint at the boxoffice. In the past, this would not have been too much of a finacial concern for Marvel because they used to follow the practise of leasing out the rights to their various characters to different studios for money upfront, leaving the various movie studios to assume all of the potential risk or reward associated with each film in question. Past movies such as the Spider-Man series of films, the X-Men movies and the spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, the two Fantastic Four movies, the original Hulk movie, the Punisher movies, the Daredevil and electra films, and the Ghost Rider movie were all examples of this practise, with Marvel taking its cut upfront and leaving the studio to sink or swim with the project profit-wise once the film was released in theaters. For the past few years however, Marvel has begun following a markedly different practice, still having the films made by outside studios, but doing so while simultaneously deciding to maintain control of their characters on the silver screen by overseeing the production of the features itself by raising and putting up its own capital. In a sense, taking the risk versus reward component of the project upon itself. With it's first few projects Marvel staked the copyrights of its characters to their film projects, so if a specific character's movie was to end up being unsuccessful(ie. unprofittable) and did not end up making Marvel at least enough money to pay back that which it had borrowed to finance the making of the movie, it was agreed that it would release the future movie rights of that property/character to the financiers of that specific project.
Of course this might have seemed like a risky business practise at the time and potentially it was since there was really no way of guaranteeing the success of their first few self-managed movie ventures. In hindsight, there was probably no real need for concern with their first couple of projects since both the Iron Man movie and the latest Incredible Hulk feature were both carefully managed by Marvel to ensure that they were both decent cinematic experiences which would almost undoubtedly make book or make back the needed amount of invested capital for Marvel. Of course there was now the added ongoing concern of needing to be successful enough with their initial projects to be able to continue securing financing of their future projects on an ongoing basis. Having Iron Man be a smash hit at the boxoffice made it that much easier to raise the capital necessary for the production of the sequel. The marginal success of the latest hulk movie also meant that Marvel was not on the hook for a self-financed project.
Along came a very big mouse...
It is definitely worth noting that recent developments in the ownership of Marvel have changed the nature of the risk involved in their chosen route of inhouse managed movie making; the recent acquisition of Marvel Entertainment by the Disney Corporation has obviously changed the financial equation for Marvel. Now, Marvel as a company does not have to be as concerned with the raising of capital for its projects or as concerned with the loss of character copyrights if it should suffer a failure at the box office. Now, unlike before, Marvel in effect has a'sugar daddy' that will not stand idly by and watch it release any assets to cover unrecouped capital to cover the cost of any given project that should fail at the box office. Of course, Disney's deep pockets do not mean that Marvel has no financial responsibilities. Now Marvel will likely find itself feeling a strong obligation to account to its parent company for the costs of any one of its many upcoming feature films now in preproduction. A natural trade off for the increased funding safety net that it will now undoubtedly enjoy.
The future's so bright, or why Mickey Mouse should be made an honourary Avenger...
Does that mean that Marvel has no other concerns with its upcoming comic movie projects? Definitely not. All along Marvel has faced the reality that you are only as good as your last movie, and that positive buzz is a key to the success of future projects. If Marvel should have suffered a creative blackeye with a few of its initial projects, then it would effectively have been under the gun so to speak with its next few projects over the next couple of years, with its potential target audience waiting to see if it could bounce back with a successful feature film. The success of Iron Man has definitely helped to get the Marvel production house off on the right foot and helped to foster an air of positivity towards future projects such as the Captain America movie down the road. Of course, at the same time, this initial success has also helped to raise the bar somewhat for its future productions.
All things considered though, that is probably a good problem to have.