Why ‘The Avengers’ Movie Proved to Be ‘Make or Break’ for Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios took a huge risk on The Avengers in 2012. As we know now the risk paid off big time, launching one of the most successful film franchises in history. Keep reading to learn what the film studio gambled with to get the first wave of Avengers films financed. 

Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, spoke with Variety in 2012, ahead of the film’s release — which premiered on May 4, 2012 — about what the studio did to make The Avengers a reality. 

To finance the first set of films — Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger — the studio needed to raise $525 million from Merrill Lynch. To secure the cash, Marvel Studios risked the movie rights of the aforementioned films as collateral. 

Marvel Studios
A general view of Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War Screening at The Fox Theatre on April 26, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia. | Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Avengers: Infinity War

“The assets were on the line,” Feige told Variety. “It was make-or-break. If the movies hadn’t worked, something would have happened and it wouldn’t have been good,” he added. 

Thankfully, the risk paid off and the films are now shattering box office records.

How Marvel Studios landed big-name actors

Feige, who assisted in the production of Spider-Man and X-Men, had to build the Marvel universe after 2008’s success with Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, which proved to be no easy task. 

“The most difficult part was laying the groundwork, and the most important part of the groundwork was the cast,” Feige said. 

The studio landed a bevy of A-list actors — which continues to grow today — including Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, and Don Cheadle. 

The Avengers official trailer

So, how did they do it? Money is the obvious answer and it is correct but actors were also drawn to the roles for another reason. Actors were offered the chance to star in their own franchise in addition to appearing in other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Typically, actors signed a contract to appear in six films with three being standard, according to Feige. Jackson inked a deal to star in nine films while Downey Jr. agreed to appear in four. 

Why the long-range deals? “You need longer deals to give you the flexibility to build that kind of Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Feige said. 

He didn’t discount the commitment the actors were making to the studio when they signed these deals. “That’s a big commitment for any actor,” he said. “I would always say, ‘If these movies don’t work, we won’t make others.’ 

What’s ‘the Marvel way?’

While the movies have taken in serious amounts of money, to get there they considered every cost. 

Feige discussed what’s referred to as “the Marvel way” in the industry.   

Actors Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Robert Downey Jr, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Cobie Smulders, Chris Hemsworth and Clark Gregg
Actors Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Robert Downey Jr, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Cobie Smulders, Chris Hemsworth, and Clark Gregg attend the European Premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” held at the Vue Westfield on April 19, 2012, in London, England. | Jon Furniss/WireImage

“It means questioning every cost, every dollar,” he explained. “We don’t take any of (our success) for granted. We always ask, ‘Do we really need this?’ If the answer is no, then you do it another way. It makes things much harder because it’s easy to spend money. But it can often lead to just more efficient ways of doing things,” he added. 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow with the studio recently unveiling its plans for Phase Four of the franchise at Comic-Con.