Marvel Entertainment was purchased by Disney in 2009, but still must follow licensing agreements with other movie studios — as well as to Disney’s biggest theme park rival, Universal Studios — that impose limits on the Burbank media and entertainment company’s intellectual property rights.
Specifically, they prohibit Disney from using a few specific Marvel characters in Disney theme parks east of the Mississippi River and ban the Mouse House from using the word “Marvel” in the title of any theme park land elsewhere.
The agreement was drawn up nearly a quarter-century ago when Marvel, Disney and other Hollywood studios could only dream of how successful the superhero franchises would become. But that has all changed.
Disney has grossed nearly $3 billion in worldwide revenue from its last three Marvel superhero movies alone: “Black Panther,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”
And the X-Men — based on characters created at Marvel — have generated more than $2 billion in gross box office revenues for 20th Century Fox, which owns the movie rights to the characters. The Spider-Man films also spun out more than $2 billion in box office revenue for its film licensing rights owners, Sony.
Still, Robert Niles, editor of the online blog Themeparkinsider.com., said that neither Disney nor Universal Studios are likely to violate the agreement and risk an expensive court battle.
“If Disney is proceeding with something, I would be astonished if they didn’t already make sure they were cleared to use those rights,” he said.
Disney officials declined to comment on the licensing agreement but said the deal won’t derail their plans to build an expansion that will resonate with fans.
“We are excited to bring these stories and their compelling characters to life with a new land in Disney California Adventure park,” said Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown.