Did Marvel Acquire the Rights to Hulk? Here’s What It Means


Hulk’s movie rights are now in the middle of a confusing era because there’s reason to believe that Marvel Studios will go all-in on the character 15 years after the release of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ in 2008. Of course, the fact that ‘The Incredible Hulk’ is making its way to Disney+ is one of the reasons why fans are quite optimistic about what Marvel Studios can do to elevate the character even more. This all came after the end of the 15-year deal involving the Hulk and Universal Pictures. So, did Marvel acquire the rights to Hulk?

Marvel Studios always had the rights to the cinematic production of the Hulk because the character is an intellectual property of Marvel Comics. However, the distribution rights of Hulk were owned by Universal Pictures for 15 years. As such, the rights to distribute Hulk will revert back to Marvel Studios.

It must be understood here that Marvel Studios never lost the rights to a property it always owned. However, a previous agreement involving Marvel and Universal before the Disney acquisition made it difficult for Marvel Studios to make a Hulk movie without partnering up with Universal. So, with that said, let’s clear some smoke in this discussion.

Marvel always had rights to Hulk

There was a point when Marvel didn’t have the means to distribute its own movies, even though the company was large enough to produce live-action films based on the characters from Marvel Comics. That’s why we saw a lot of Marvel characters making their way to different companies years ago. For example, Sony still has exclusive rights to the Spider-Man film portrayal. Meanwhile, before the Disney acquisition, Marvel partnered with Paramount Pictures to distribute its films.

In the same way, Marvel allowed Universal Pictures to produce a Hulk movie in 2003. The problem was that Universal wasn’t able to follow through on the deal for a sequel, and that was why the production rights of the Hulk character returned to Marvel partnered with Universal Pictures for the distribution of the 2008 ‘The Incredible Hulk’ movie that is still part of the MCU.

The problem, however, is that the distribution rights of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ have been owned by Universal for 15 years since the movie’s release in June 2008. This explains why Marvel didn’t produce a Hulk movie in the 15 years since the release of ‘The Incredible Hulk.’ But people should understand that it was right to distribute the Hulk character that Marvel didn’t have.

According to the deal between Marvel and Universal, Universal had the right to distribute any movie produced by Marvel as long as the Hulk was in a starring role. This explains why the Hulk was almost always a secondary character in all the MCU movies he appeared in. If Marvel had produced a movie about the Hulk, the right to distribute the movie was up to Universal Pictures instead of Disney.


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But as far as the rights to the character are concerned, Marvel always owned the Hulk because of the fact that he is an intellectual property of Marvel Comics. The right to produce movies based on the Hulk reverted back to Marvel in 2006 when Universal failed to follow through on a sequel to the 2003 Hulk movie starring Eric Bana. Since 2006, Marvel has owned the cinematic rights to the Hulk, and that’s why the character has been featured in many different MCU movies since 2008.

It was only the distribution rights that Marvel didn’t own. This wasn’t the case for the other Marvel characters upon the Disney acquisition of Marvel. The Mouse company bought the distribution rights of Marvel movies from Paramount Pictures. On the other hand, Universal Pictures retained the distribution rights of the Hulk character.

The distribution rights would automatically revert

Of course, fans are now talking about the rights to the Hulk character because ‘The Incredible Hulk’ will now be on Disney+. This is good news because this movie was one of the few MCU films that weren’t on Disney+. And the obvious reason for its absence in the Disney streaming service was that Universal owned the distribution rights to the character.

But because ‘The Incredible Hulk’ will now be on Disney+, fans are excited about what Marvel Studios could bring to the table regarding the Hulk. The deal involving Universal’s distribution rights over the Hulk would last 15 years, starting from the June 2008 release date of ‘The Incredible Hulk.’ And since 15 years have already gone by, that means that the deal would have already ended.


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There isn’t anything concrete to support our claim that the deal has already ended. Still, it is safe to say that it already did, especially because Universal Pictures did almost nothing with its distribution rights to the Hulk in the 15 years that the company owned them. And because 15 years have passed, the distribution rights would have automatically reverted to Marvel Studios, which was the original owner of the rights to the Hulk IP.

That means that Marvel Studios didn’t have to enter into a deal involving the distribution rights to the Hulk, as it has always owned the character’s IP. It was just that Marvel previously entered into a contract with Universal for the latter to exclusively distribute the Hulk for 15 years. But as far as ownership is concerned, Marvel always owned the rights to the Hulk.

As such, the distribution rights should automatically revert back to the original owner after the end of the deal regarding Universal’s exclusive distribution rights over the Hulk. This is why ‘The Incredible Hulk’ is making its way to Disney+ and why Marvel Studios can safely go all-in on the Hulk storyline in the MCU with more Hulk-related movies and television shows.

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