Chances are, many Marvel fans don’t even know the name Ike Perlmutter. Ask people who runs Marvel Studios and the name you’ll hear will be Kevin Feige. Even Feige reports to someone, however. Since 2007, when Feige was made president of production at Marvel Studios, that someone has been Ike Perlmutter, who became CEO of Marvel Entertainment in 2005.
Things changed last week, however, as Feige managed to tweak the corporate structure at Marvel and Disney. In short, Feige now reports to Disney chief Alan Horn, while Perlmutter remains Marvel Entertainment CEO, working out of New York.
On the surface the change may seem small, but the new exec structure could have a couple of big long-range effects for Marvel movies and TV. Time will tell how big those changes will be; we’ll explore the possible ramifications of the Marvel Studios shakeup after the break.
THR reports that “several years of frustration” between Feige and Perlmutter led to this new corporate structure. Feige now has tighter control over Marvel’s movies, and reports directly to Alan Horn at Disney. Jeph Loeb, who heads Marvel Television, will continue to report to Perlmutter in New York.
Those quiet stories of strife between Feige and Perlmutter have been around for years. The CEO is ultra-private, never giving interviews and rarely even allowing himself to be photographed. Feige likes to talk to the press, and compared to Perlmutter he’s much more of a story guy. Perlmutter is a businessman, and he’s part of the reason Marvel exists today after the financially turbulent 1990s, but Feige is the architect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Whether public perception of Feige as Marvel’s leader naturally grew out of his open approach to publicity, or if he cultivated that persona in opposition to Perlmutter’s reclusive approach as a way to build his own reputation, the effect has been to create a public perception of the power balance at Marvel that wasn’t always correct. But while Perlmutter had final say, Feige was the one with more acute long-range plans on the story side.
Furthermore, the stories you’ve heard about Marvel being incredibly cheap, from director and actor salaries all the way down to food served at press junkets, are related to Perlmutter. A 2009 Financial Times piece on the exec painted him as a committed penny-pincher, and also acknowledged that the tendency likely contributed to Marvel’s revival after ’90s financial woes. Saying Marvel didn’t like to spend money was really saying that Perlmutter didn’t like to spend money.*
So what does this mean? A few big things come to mind.
First, we might see bigger divide between Marvel’s TV and movie sides. Feige has broken free of Perlmutter, and Perlmutter still ultimately holds the strings of Marvel TV. So, at least in the foreseeable future, we’d be surprised to see much close crossover between TV and movie characters. At one point, maybe (maybe) some of the Defenders from Netflix’s series could have ended up in Avengers: Infinity War. We’d be more surprised if that happens at this point, at least with the structure the way it is now.
Second, we may see spending changes on the movie side. Probably not extraordinary ones, because we’d expect that Feige learned something from Perlmutter’s spending habits. Marvel’s movies are successes in part because of those spending habits. But if Feige wants to spend more on something or someone, maybe he’ll be able to. Related to that, Feige may now have more story control on the movie side, especially if the ability to spend money manifests as the ability to throw around a bit more money to keep an actor like Chris Hemsworth around for another couple movies.
Following from that, we’re curious to see what this means for Feige’s contract when his next opportunity comes to re-sign. At one point I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that he would move on after Phase Three was over. Now that he’s got the Marvel Studios reigns more firmly in hand, however, things could be different. Especially since he’s working directly for Alan Horn, who is a lot more oriented towards working with filmmakers than Perlmutter could ever hope to be on his most generous day.
Could this all put Feige in a position to get an even bigger gig with Disney or a Disney-held company (cough!Lucasfilm!) down the line? No one stays in a job forever, and given how long Feige has already been with Marvel, and what he’s achieved, we’re really curious to see what he sets as his next goal.
In the short term, things may not change too much. Some of Marvel’s plans into mid-2016 are pretty set already. We’ll see what comes of this new power structure as the studio goes forward into Doctor Strange and into possible blurred lines with characters on the TV side.
* A big footnote, but Perlmutter’s history is super-interesting. Perlmutter, a veteran of the Six Day War who supposedly arrived in New York with $250, is a living example of every exaggerated American Dream story you’ve ever heard. Decades ago he sold “toys and beauty products” on the streets, traded up to buying and selling surplus retail stock, grew to deal with to bigger companies, and eventually ran Toy Biz with Avi Arad, which led to their control over Marvel in the late ’90s. For ten years he’s been the CEO of one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world. That’s a remarkable trajectory.
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