Film News

What Does Kevin Feige’s Big Power Play at Marvel Actually Mean for Us?

For years, Kevin Feige has had to answer to Marvel’s mercurial CEO Ike Perlmutter, but it’s been easy to miss a thing like that. Along with Robert Downey, Jr., Feige has been the one constant public face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, outlasting directors like Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon. He’s been the Marvel boss making appearances at San Diego Comic-Con every year. Along with Marvel Studios co-presidents Louis D’Esposito (physical production) and Victoria Alonso (effects and postproduction), he’s been the producer popping up in the special features of every MCU Blu-Ray/DVD to explain how the movie was made. He’s the guy everyone credits for the unprecedented success of the MCU, and the key evidence in many arguments for why Warner Bros.’ developing DC Cinematic Universe will not enjoy the same level of success (e.g., “They don’t have a Kevin Feige-type overseeing everything”).

As such, it’s hard to think of Feige as someone who has a boss, but the fact is that he is simply a Marvel employee with a contract set to expire in 2018. He’s been reporting to Perlmutter this whole time, not quite as powerful in the Marvel hierarchy as many likely assumed.

Not so much anymore. As THR revealed last night, Disney has restructured Marvel, making Feige and his Marvel Studios co-presidents answerable to only Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. Perlmutter will continue running Marvel’s TV and comic book divisions, but will have nothing to do with the film division. Disney confirmed the news in the following statement:

“Marvel Studios is taking the next logical step in its integration with The Walt Disney Studios, joining Pixar and Lucasfilm in centralizing many of its film-related functions in Burbank, with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and co-president Louis D’Esposito continuing to lead the Marvel Studios team reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn.”

This comes after years upon years of frustration ultimately led Feige to vent to Horn earlier this summer. BirthMoviesDeath reports that the biggest threat to the MCU has always been the ever-present fear that the penny-pinching Perlmutter would foolishly fire Feige in a cost-cutting/power-saving move. After this reorganization, that’s no longer a concern.

This all seems remarkably important, right?  On some level, it really is. As THR’s Kim Masters revealed last year, Perlmutter may have sold Marvel to Disney in 2009, but he’d “retained an iron-man grip on Marvel’s operations and influences Disney’s decisions on licensing and film-studio management.” An insider revealed, “Disney owns Marvel, but Ike gets to control every budget and everything spent on marketing, down to the penny.”

This+is+ike+perlmutter+that+s+stan+lee+_b863a84b70f7ae206f1e66ac766907f0Certain Disney executives were said to be actively scared of Perlmutter, paranoid to the point of fearing he was wiretapping their calls. It was Perlmutter’s top lieutenants, not Feige, who negotiated all of the low-balled salaries and ultra-restrictive contracts for talent, and his caterer of choice for publicity events was always whoever was the cheapest, usually Subway.

This restructuring is clearly a big blow to Perlmutter’s power, although his mercurial ways will continue to be enjoyed by Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel Television and the various people in charge of publishing and animation.  On the opposite end, it’s a huge boost for Feige.

But what does any of this really mean for us?

Maybe nothing, at least not for the foreseeable future. With Perlmutter removed from the equation, Feige could have more freedom to approach pricier filmmakers or break the bank to retain some of the studio’s on-screen and below the line talent, but at the same time it’s hard to imagine Marvel Studios significantly altering its business model after it’s been so ridiculously successful for them to this point. The bigger impact might simply be that Feige has less reason to walk once his contract expires. With more breathing room, he might be more inclined to stick around on a new contract. So, this restructuring is aimed more at solidifying the long-term than having any kind of impact we’ll notice in the short-term.  It does also signal that Marvel’s film and TV divisions are drifting even further apart, an odd behind-the-scenes reality considering how connected the two sides are on a creative level.  Either way, don’t hold your breath waiting for Daredevil or Jessica Jones to pop up in any of the movies.

Source: THR, BMD


  1. Oh, it certainly makes a difference. Better salaries means that Feige can hire better talent and will have a better chance to keep at least some of the actors whose contracts are about to expire. Plus, Perlmutter is infamously against a female lead Comic book movie (I wonder how hard Feige had to push to include Captain Marvel into the line-up). It might also help should Feige try to negotiate the F4 rights back. In addition, Disney is more open-minded regarding investments which have mostly a long-term gain (for example, Tangled was ridiculous expensive, but the money they invested in the software has paid off big time in the long run).

    The downside is naturally the fracture between the film and the TV devisions, though I doubt that Feige was actually that involved in this part of the universe either way, as busy as he is with the movies. I wonder who is overseeing the continuity – someone has to.

    1. This past year opened a lot of people’s eyes to the disconnect between Marvel Studios and Marvel TV. Feige was out there hyping Age of Ultron, and when people would ask him about Daredevil he’d admit he had yet to watch it. More and more interviews like that with Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel TV, and the Agent Carter/Agents of SHIELD/Daredevil people further hammered home the point that from a practical working standpoint the film and TV sides of Marvel were not nearly as connected as we thought. This move to further separate how the two units operate continues that trend, and Loeb is now essentially the Kevin Feige of Marvel TV, more so than he already was.

      As for the impact on the film side of things, I honestly don’t see this as being that big of a deal in the sense of “Will this make Captain America: Civil War a better movie?” Considering the fact that the movie’s already wrapped filming, I don’t think Feige’s new power is going to somehow cause him to unkill any character they might have killed, like what if they killed off Chris Evans for contractual reasons but now they can pay him big money and bring him back. And in the short-term, Civil War is all I care about in the MCU. However, you’re right about everything else this opens up to the MCU in the long-term, particularly about Perlmutter’s documented reticence to do a female-led project. This does possibly help explain how Feige and Scott Derrickson have been managing to amass the increasingly impressive cast for Doctor Strange, perhaps freed up to offer a little more money or maybe not force the actors into the Marvel standard 7-year deal.

      1. Oh, I think they also will try to lock up the actors as long as possible. But they are more flexible with salaries and will pay more if a franchise kicks off. Naturally everything within reason.

      2. Plus, word is that Perlmutter is one of the reasons why the relationship between Fox and Marvel is so negative. Getting him out of the picture might open up good opportunities there, too.

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