Don’t you just love the summertime? Renowned composer and pianist George Gershwin said it best: the “summertime and the living is easy.” As young lawyers, we may have mountains of education debt and immense financial constraints, but visits to the beach, cookouts, and picnics are FREE in the summertime. I love nothing more than to be outside with friends with a glass of wine or my favorite cocktail—an old-fashioned—while enjoying the summer breeze. And, if we want to indulge ourselves more, we will splurge on a tried and true American tradition—summer movie blockbusters.
I still remember when I saw the film Independence Day in the summer of 1996. As a little, chubby, awkward sixth grader, I could barely contain my excitement about a film where aliens blow up the White House. Fast forward to 2018—the summer blockbuster tradition is still alive and well. This year, the summer has been packed with great movies such as Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and my personal favorite, Incredibles 2. (This 30-something will still pay real money to see a Disney film in the theaters!) Summer theatrical releases on average will gross $129.9 million domestically (United States and Canada) and $243.3 million internationally (everywhere else), leading to a total box office gross of $373.2 million. However, the behemoth of summer blockbuster success is Marvel Studios.
Marvel’s latest summer film, The Avengers: Infinity Wars, had a worldwide opening weekend of $640.5 million and has already grossed more than a billion dollars in the United States and Canada. That is an incredible amount of money for one film, and lawyers have been involved with Marvel Studios’ growth and blockbuster domination from the very beginning.
Initially Marvel Entertainment was an independent LLC based in New York, New York. However, in 2009 The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. The Marvel-Disney deal is now considered one of the most profitable media deals in history. Playing key roles in the Marvel-Disney deal were John Turitzin, Marvel’s general counsel and executive vice president; Marvel’s lead outside attorney Carl Sanchez, a San Diego-based partner with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; and Disney’s lead outside attorney Chang-Do Gong, a New York City-based partner with White & Case. Chang-Do, Carl, and an additional 20 lawyers worked tirelessly for two weeks in 2009. Their legal representation required them to review thousands of intellectual property documents on every Marvel comic character—more than 8,000 characters over the last 70 years. On August 29, 2009, terms of the merger were agreed upon by all parties, and the legal teams met with their respective clients the following day for signatures.
So, the next time you watch another Marvel movie, remember to thank the work of three very talented senior lawyers and their small army of junior attorneys for their efforts to support and advise a massive merger that resulted in numerous blockbuster hits in the last decade.