Marvel Studios Gets New Chief, New Brief

Looking to control its own destiny in an entertainment business continually hungering for the next franchise, Marvel Studios has named David Maisel as its new president and COO.

Fresh from his former job as head of business development at the top-line Hollywood boutique agency Endeavor, Maisel will report directly to Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad.

Since the late 1990’s films based on Marvel characters–X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil and others have grossed over $3 billion at the worldwide box office and from DVD sales.

According to a report in today’s Daily Variety, Marvel is not looking to become a studio, just to negotiate better and more lucrative deals with third parties that want to base films and other projects on Marvel properties. Marvel’s To date, Marvel, whose comic book library contains more than 4,700 characters, has had to cede all rights to characters such as Spider-Man to get the deal done. In a business where leverage is just about the only thing, the more money Marvel characters make the more leverage the mini-studio has. Maisel and Avi say they are looking for new opportunities on a broad front–theatrical films, direct-to-video projects, television programming, video games and live theatrical productions.

Before the company filed for bankruptcy a few years ago, Marvel had almost no leverage at all, so it sold off rights to entities such as Fox and Disney. As a result, those studios got all broadcast and DVD rights to the wildly successful X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk and others. When those deals expire, Marvel execs say they are eager to reclaim their rights. This coming summer will see a raft of Marvel product in the marketplace, including Artisan/Lions Gate’s The Punisher (4/16), Spider-Man 2 (8/2), Man-Thing (August 2004) and Blade 3: Trinity (also in August).