With the recent news that Marvel Studios and Universal Pictures have reached a deal regarding the rights to the Hulk movies, we wanted to take a look at who actually has the rights to the character.
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The Hulk franchise has gone through a lot of changes in the last few years. First, the character was acquired by Marvel Studios in a deal with Universal Pictures. Then, the character was played by Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk (2008), but Mark Ruffalo took over the role for The Avengers (2012) and subsequent movies. Now that the Walt Disney Company has acquired 21st Century Fox, who owns the rights to any future Hulk movies?
The answer is complicated. While Marvel Studios does now have the rights to use the character of Hulk in their movies, they do not have the rights to make a standalone Hulk movie. Those rights are still owned by Universal Pictures. However, it is possible that Marvel and Universal could strike a deal that would allow for a standalone Hulk movie to be made under the Marvel Cinematic Universe banner.
It is also worth noting that while Disney now owns 21st Century Fox, they have not yet integrated Fox’s assets into their company. This means that any future deals regarding the rights to Hulk movies will have to be negotiated between Disney and Universal.
The comic book rights
The comic book rights to the character Hulk are actually quite complicated. The character first appeared in 1962 in the pages of Marvel’s “Incredible Hulk” #1, and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Hulk was actually a villian when he first appeared, but over the years he has undergone many changes and his status has fluctuated between hero and villian.
The ownership rights to the character have changed hands several times over the years. In 1968, Marvel sold the film rights to Universal Studios, who produced two live-action films starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1990, Universal renewed its option on the character, but then let the option lapse in 1993. At that point, 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights and produced two live-action films starring Eric Bana and Edward Norton in 2003 and 2008 respectively.
In 2005, Marvel regained control of the film rights after reaching a deal with Universal. This allowed Marvel to produce its own films featuring the character, starting with “The Incredible Hulk” in 2008, which starred Edward Norton (who also starred in Fox’s version). Marvel went on to produce two more “Hulk” films starring Mark Ruffalo as part of its larger Avengers franchise.
The movie rights
The movie rights to the character Hulk are currently held by Universal Pictures. The character first appeared in the film, “The Incredible Hulk” in 2008. This was a reboot of the 2003 film “Hulk” which was not well received by audiences. The rights to the character have been held by Universal since 1996 when they acquired them from Marvel Studios.
The TV rights
The Incredible Hulk is a character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that first appeared in the May 1962 issue of Tales to Astonish. The character was originally intended as a one-off, but the positive response from readers prompted Lee and Kirby to bring the Hulk back as a regular foe for the Fantastic Four. The Incredible Hulk went on to become one of Marvel’s most popular characters, spawning countless comic book series, television shows, and movies.
The character has been licenses for use in a number of different media over the years, but the question of who owns the rights to the Hulk movies is a bit complicated. The short answer is that Universal Pictures owns the distribution rights to most of the Hulk movies, while Marvel Studios holds the rights to make future films featuring the character.
The distribution rights to the Incredible Hulk dates back to Universal’s release of The Incredible Hulk in 1978. The film was a box office bomb, but Universal still held onto the distribution rights when Marvel attempted to buy them back in 1990. In 2003, Universal finally agreed to co-produce any future Hulk films with Marvel Studios, which led to the release of two more films featuring the character: The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and The Avengers in 2012.
Marvel Studios currently holds the rights to make future solo Hulk movies, but it is unclear if and when they will ever choose to exercise those rights. For now, it seems likely that any future big screen appearances by Bruce Banner’s alter ego will be limited to cameos and supporting roles in other Marvel films.
The video game rights
The character first appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in The Incredible Hulk (2008), produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Universal Pictures. The MCU Hulk later appeared in Avengers Assemble (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
The video game rights are held by Universal. The company licensed the character to Sega for coin-operated games released between 2003 and 2005, which were followed by several licensed console games from 2006 to 2012. In 2017, the website Kotaku ranked the Hulk as one of the best characters to appear in video games.
The merchandising rights
The rights to create Hulk movies have changed hands several times. The character has been adapted for film, television and animation numerous times, by various studios. The merchandising rights are currently held by Marvel, which is why you see the Hulk in the Avengers movies.
The live-action rights
The live-action film and television rights to the character Hulk are jointly owned by Universal Pictures and Marvel Studios, with Universal owning the distribution rights. Marvel Studios producing any and all live action films and television shows.
The animation rights
The Hulk first appeared in a live action film in the 2003 movie Hulk, which was directed by Ang Lee and starred Eric Bana. The rights to the character were then sold to Universal Studios, who released The Incredible Hulk in 2008. Universal still owns the rights to any future live action Hulk movies, but Marvel Studios has the animation rights.
The rights in other media
The 1990s television series The Incredible Hulk was produced by Universal Television, based on the Marvel Comics character, and starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk.
The rights to make a movie based on the Hulk character had been owned by Universal since the early 1980s (after Orion Pictures had bought them from author/screenwriter James Goldman), but they were unable to develop a viable script that would satisfy both the studio and Marvel. In 1990,Universal licensed certain rights (including motion picture) back to Marvel, who then set up a production company called New World Entertainment to make a new television series for them.
In May 2005, following Universal’s merger with NBC, NBCUniversal announced that it was folding the film division of New World Entertainment back into Universal Studios. At that time, all rights to The Incredible Hulk returned to Marvel Studios.
The live-action television series The Incredible Hulk ran for five seasons on CBS from 1978 to 1982. In 1988, an attempt was made to launch a new live-action TV series with actor Richard Kiel in the role of the Hulk, but it did not go beyond the development stage. The rights to make such a series were again licensed—this time exclusively—to DNA Productions in 2003; however, no such show has been produced as of 2019.
In conclusion, it appears that Universal still has the distribution rights to all Hulk movies. However, Disney now owns the character rights, which means that any future Hulk movies will most likely be produced by Marvel Studios and be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.