With a massive dump truck of money rolling their way from The Avengers right about now, the guys and gals at Marvel are probably pretty pleased with themselves for working this long and spending this much money to bring Earth's Mightiest Heroes to the big screen. But to get here, they first had to take a big financial risk, one that could have spelled disaster for the Marvel Movie Universe.
Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige has been making the rounds this week not only to talk up Avengers, but also to discuss his master plan for the Marvel universe on the big screen. There is a plan in place, and there's been a plan in place since before Iron Man back in 2008.
But in order to put the plan in motion, Marvel needed money ... a lot of money. They went to financial giant Merrill Lynch with a plan to raise $525 million to help fund Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor, which would then all lead in to the tentpole that is The Avengers. But here's where it gets tricky. In order to get the money, Marvel had to put up the film rights to all of those characters as collateral.
"The assets were on the line," Feige said. "It was make or break. If the movies hadn't worked, something would have happened, and it wouldn't have been good."
But the movies did work. Feige and company have spent the last four years producing one blockbuster after another, capping off the run with The Avengers. But even now, with piles of cash too heavy for the Hulk to carry rolling in to Marvel and its parent company, Disney, the studio still does its best to save money whenever it can, just in case.
"It means questioning every cost, every dollar," Feige said. "We don't take any of [our success] for granted. We always ask, 'Do we really need this?' If the answer is no, then you do it another way. It makes things much harder, because it's easy to spend money. But it can often lead to just more efficient ways of doing things."
Sure, that's easy to say now, but with The Avengers set to make a killing this weekend, Feige might have to worry about Downey, Hemsworth and Evans requesting solid gold trailers for the next round of Marvel sequels.