By now, you’ve probably heard the fascinating tidbit that Sony passed on the opportunity to purchase Marvel in the 1990s for a measly $25 million. It was one of the most attention-grabbing reveals in Ben Fritz’s new book The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies, and easily one of the most astonishing mistakes in recent Hollywood history.
In case you’ve been living out in the woods over the last decade completely disconnected from mainstream society and your first act of reintegration into modern times is reading this article, I want to thank you for choosing Observer. Then, I want to explain that the 18 films that compose the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have earned nearly $15 billion at the worldwide box office for Disney, a total that will rise considerably with this weekend’s release of Avengers: Infinity War.
It is, without a doubt, the most successful creation in entertainment history.
So, yeah, Sony REALLY dropped the ball on this one. But who else made laughable studio-altering mishaps in Hollywood’s recent blockbuster franchise era?
“I believe Paramount had the rights to Twilight, and they never developed it,” Fritz told Observer.
Oof, that’s got to hurt especially considering that Paramount is bereft of valuable IP titles these days and currently ranks last in the Hollywood franchise wars. But what was Paramount’s loss turned out to be Summit Entertainment’s gain.
The five films in the sparkly vampire series enabled Summit to make headlines from 2008 to 2012, a nice chunk of time to be in-demand. Twilight helped kick off the YA feeding frenzy as the franchise took in more than $3.3 billion worldwide and launched the careers of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. That’s name-brand recognition for ya.
The series also boosted the value of Summit, which was acquired by Lionsgate in 2012 for a hefty $412.5 million. Had Paramount held on to the series, the business landscape of Hollywood might look drastically different today.
What other bone-headed decisions have been made recently?
“I believe a lot of studios passed on The Hunger Games,” Fritz continued.
The Hunger Games eventually landed at Lionsgate and helped turn Jennifer Lawrence into a worldwide star. In 2012, the studio surprassed the $1 billion mark for the first time in its history thanks to The Hunger Games and the final Twilight movie. Again, the big studios passed, allowing a smaller outfit to profit hugely off their table scraps. Kudos to Lionsgate for leveraging this market inefficiency.
The four-picture Hunger Games series grossed around $3 billion worldwide and remains a property Lionsgate hopes to revive in some form or another moving forward. That’s one of the biggest wins in recent movie news.
Any other hilarious swings-and-misses?
“Also relevant to Marvel is that New Line had the rights to Iron Man,” Fritz added. “The then-head of New Line, Bob Shaye, was like, ‘Who’s going to believe a guy in a metal suit can fly? That’s ridiculous!'”
Is it, Bob? Is it really?
As we all know, the Iron Man franchise revived Robert Downey Jr.’s sinking career and established him as one of the biggest movie stars on the planet (though the value any Marvel actors carry outside of the MCU is up for debate). The character laid the foundation for Marvel’s shared cinematic universe to take root and become what it is today.
Most critically, the 2008 series-starter developed what would become the MCU’s defining style in terms of the tone and vibe of its entire slate. The action-comedy balance has been carried over into almost every single entry in the franchise and has proven to be the most crowd-pleasing approach to supehero blockbusters.
Oh, and the three solo Iron Man movies have also grossed a combined $2.5 billion worldwide. Then again, New Line probably isn’t too upset thanks to the mind-blowing success of It and the upcoming Shazam! superhero feature.
So as you stroll into Avengers: Infinity War this weekend, check out the next Jennifer Lawrence vehicle or see anything related to vampires, just remember some of the colossal mistakes made around these franchises.