Since the failure of Fox’s 2015 re-boot of Fantastic Four, which was supposed to revitalize the franchise, much speculation about the current state and future of the characters has transpired. Recently, Marvel gave the green light to Fox to produce a new TV series which would be part of the X-Men Universe (Legion), leading to many fans thinking the rights to Fantastic Four, or at least some important characters could have been exchanged to make this happen. However, Fox quickly came out and debunked this, stating that they still had plans to continue the franchise even with their latest debacle.
Interestingly, it may come as a shock to most fans but Fox does not own the film rights to Fantastic Four. However, they are in agreement to make the films with a company called Constantin Films. Constantin Films acquired the rights to Fantastic Four way back in 1986, and have been behind the production of all of the titled films since then. They are the Film Division of parent company Constantin Medien, who also has its hands in sports, with control of a sports network in Germany and handling the marketing for a major soccer team. The parent company is currently looking at a change in direction away from their Film Division to focus more on the sports side of the group.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, shareholders have already approved a proposal for a “strategic realignment” that aims to split off Constantin’s Film Division.
“Positioning ourselves as a sports-only company is in our estimation the best and most promising strategy for the Constantin Medien Group in the long term,ˮ said Constantin Medien CEO Fred Kogel in a statement. “It will give us the opportunity to increase the group’s return on sales and profitability permanently and sustainably.ˮ
Currently, supporters of a move to focus on Sports, control 18.6 percent of Constantin Medien while supporters for the continued development of their Film Division control only 13.6 percent. The latter are not taking this lying down as they are challenging the shareholder vote and are calling for the immediate resignation of company CEO Kogel.
So what does all of this mean to us, the lovers of the MCU and all of the properties they have yet to own? With the right maneuvering, and perhaps for the right price, Marvel Studios could possibly purchase the rights back from Constantin. In the world of big business, money is the great equalizer. At the moment Constantin Medien, with a majority of its voters, sees more financial success outside of filmmaking. So if they were to do away with their Film Division, it would likely mean a liquidation of assets. Now, we would all like to think that Comic Book Films will be successful forever, but at some point, this bubble is going to burst. For example, most Comic Book Film franchises rarely go beyond 3 films before a soft/hard reboot takes place, no matter how successful. For Constantin Medien, they could be looking at this as a ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ type of situation – trying to cash in on before the hype dies down.
Quite possibly, Fox may have the ultimate say in this situation, as mentioned above, they do have a relationship with Constantin, and have made the Films to date despite their failures. This suggests they could have a special agreement that we are unaware of, such as a right of first refusal, or exclusivity to the making of Fantastic Four Films. Still, to this point, Fox has been financially supported by Constantin to make these films happen, without that support the money would have to come from themselves. Perhaps a shared deal similar to that of Sony would be in order if that were the case, we simply can’t know the true nature of the deal between Constantin and Fox.
For Marvel Studios, though, much can be gained by reacquiring the Fantastic Four franchise instead of any type of sharing with Fox, though it would be an acceptable consolation. The most important aspect of The Fantastic Four is, in all honesty, its main villains along with Silver Surfer. Marvel Studios can assuredly make good use of the likes of Galactus, Dr. Doom, Kang the Conquerer, Annihulus, and The Skrulls (Including Super Skrull). There is a big question brewing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that is how do you raise the stakes for the Avengers after a battle with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet? The answer is really any one of these particular villains that come with the rights to Marvel’s first family – they can change the game in many unexpected ways. Previously, we outlined exactly how each of this characters could be used, you can catch that here.
But, when you look at the recent example of sharing between Marvel and Sony, all that glitters is not quite gold. Yes, with the likely success of Spider-Man: Homecoming the relationship will continue and flourish. But, Marvel Studios does not control the rights to Spider-Man’s rouge’s gallery. Without the go-ahead from Sony, important villains like Venom, Norman Osborn, Black Cat, and Dr. Octopus to name a few, are characters that simply can’t be used outside of a Spider-Man solo title. Sure, other MCU heroes and villains could show up in a Spider-Man solo movie and him, along with Aunt May, can crossover to other titles, but anything else would have to be agreed upon. But really, what is in that for Sony? They don’t really stand to gain anything quantifiable if a character is used outside of their own movies. I won’t go so far as to say it will never happen, but it would be a surprise to this author.
When you look at the reacquiring of The Fantastic Four, however, they do not hold the same cache as a character like Spider-Man. The real prizes are the characters associated with The Fantastic Four -though that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be happy to see a solo title made under the Marvel Studios banner (I would personally skip right into Future Foundation for a Fantastic Four solo title if it were up to me). Hopefully, though, this big shake-up at Constantin can be an opportunity for Marvel Studios no matter how it works out! How do you foresee this all playing out? Let us know in the comments.