It was just announced that Paramount has transferred the worldwide rights to two of its Marvel properties, The Avengers and the Iron Man franchise, to Walt Disney Studios for at least $115 million.
When the Mouse bought Marvel a while back, I was wondering how this was going to work out, and I'm still curious. Now it's obvious that Disney will get the lion's share of the box office, including their cherished merchandising and theme park rights. However, who is going to be paying the millions of dollars it takes to produce the films? Marvel Studios (a.k.a. Disney)? Jon Favreau's production studio? Did Disney pay $115 million to get the movies after they were in the can and have no say in what happens during production? It's all very confusing.
It's also worth mentioning that Paramount still owns the rights to Thor and Captain America, Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, and other Marvel properties have been sprinkled throughout Hollywood over the years. This means that Disney won't get to distribute these films, but will still retain their merchandising, etc.
Don't feel too sorry for Paramount, though, because they still have tons of tentpole franchises they've yet to milk completely dry: Mission: Impossible, Jackass, Transformers, Star Trek, Paranormal Activity, and G.I. Joe.
It may all be very difficult to understand, but the bottom line is that Disney will be distributing The Avengers in 2012, and Iron Man 3 in 2013, which means they'll be basking in the glory of billions at the box office. I'm glad that they're making all of this Marvel-ownership business slightly less confusing, but it is also starting to look like Disney will soon have a monopoly on the entertainment industry...
Oh well. As long as they keep giving Pixar their creative autonomy and don't destroy Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, I'll stay a happy camper.
For a more detailed account of the deal and a little clearing up as far as studio logistics go, check out Variety.