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.”
Certain 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.