Marvel Studios was founded as Marvel Films by Marvel Entertainment Group. The division was formerly headed by Avi Arad from May 13, 1993, (as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer), until October 1998, when he took on other duties within the company such as executive producer for the studios’ film output.
Partnering with Lions Gate Entertainment in 2004, Marvel plans to enter the direct-to-DVD market with eight animated films with Lionsgate handling distribution.
Marvel entered into a non-recourse financing structure with Merrill Lynch Commercial Finance Corp. that is collateralized by certain movie rights to a total of 10 characters from Marvel's vast vault. Marvel gets $525 million to make a maximum of 10 movies based on the company's properties over eight years, according to the parameters of the deal with Paramount in September 2004. Those properties were: Ant-Man, The Avengers, Black Panther, Captain America, Cloak & Dagger, Doctor Strange, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Power Pack, Shang-Chi.
In 2005, Michael Helfant joined the studio as President and Chief Operating Officer. In November 2005, Marvel gained the film rights to Iron Man from New Line Cinema. In 2006, Marvel revealed that it has regained the film rights to The Incredible Hulk. April 2006, Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to Thor from Sony Pictures Studios. That year the film was announced to be a Marvel Studios production. Lions Gate Entertainment subsequently dropped the Black Widow motion picture project it had since 2004 giving the rights back to Marvel.
In March 2007, David Maisel was named Chairman and Kevin Feige was named President of Production as Iron Man began filming. In 2008, Marvel Studios signed a lease with Raleigh Studios to host its headquarters and production offices and film the next four movies on the studios’ slate, including Iron Man 2 and Thor, at their Manhattan Beach facilities.
On December 31, 2009, The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Both Marvel and Disney have stated that the merger would not affect any preexisting deals with other film studios for the time being, although Disney said they would consider distributing future Marvel projects with their own studios once the current deals expired. On October 18, 2010, Disney bought the distribution rights for The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount Pictures.
In June 2010, Marvel set up a television division headed up by Jeph Loeb as Executive Vice President.
Beginning with Thor: The Dark World, the Marvel Studios logo was given a makeover and its own fanfare by composer Brian Tyler. According to Kevin Feige, this was to symbolize Marvel as its own entity within the Walt Disney Company since Thor: The Dark World would be the first movie to only feature the studio's logo without any other.
On February 9, 2015, Sony Pictures Studios and Marvel Studios announced a deal that would introduce Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, allowing Spider-Man characters to appear in Marvel Studios films, as well as Marvel Studios characters in Sony Pictures films. Under this deal, Sony would co-produce the new Spider-Man series with Marvel Studios, while Sony would still finance, own, distribute, and have final creative control over the projects. This set Spider-Man to show up in one Marvel Studios film before his MCU solo-film debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming to be released on July 28, 2017. This was the previous release date of Thor: Ragnarok, since which its release date was pushed back along with Black Panther and Captain Marvel.
In August 2015, after the release of Ant-Man, Disney and Marvel underwent a reorganization with Feige no longer reporting to Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter, but to Disney Studios CEO Alan F. Horn.