MARVEL OR PIXAR? Which Was the Better DISNEY Acquisition?

Marvel Studios has been on an unprecedented winning streak in theatres, making their acquisition by Disney an overwhelming success – but is it more than what Disney has reaped with Pixar? It’s an interesting question, and one that Motley Fool’s Tim Beyers has attempted to answer… and what he discovered might surprise you.

According to Beyers’ estimates, on the theatrical box office front Marvel has outpaced Pixar since acquisition by just under $2 billion dollars, earning $6.3 billion in the eight films it has released since 2009. Marvel Studios’ well-known penchant for cost-cutting also bore out in numbers, showing Marvel generally is able to make their movies cheaper than Pixar. But where Pixar gains an advantage is when it comes your TV.

“Pixar more than makes up for a $1.5 billion box office deficit by generating more than four times as much in home video sales, resulting in higher overall profits and a better margin,” Beyers says, based on his data.

Meaning all those Cars and Toy Story DVDs ubiquitously found in every home with a child under 10 is the key. Beyer reports home video sales tend to be “vastly more profitable” than theatrical ticket sales.

Beyers also points out that while Marvel’s The Avengers is Disney’s highest-grossing movie, Disney’s Frozen earned more profit for the company – a 40.57% profit margin over Marvel’s The Avengers 35.82%. While Frozen wasn’t a Pixar release, the Pixar acquisition led to a number of its employees – most notably John Lasseter – being heavily involved in Disney’s animated projects as well - i.e. the Pixar acquisition has positively influenced Disney’s home-grown animation division in a way the Marvel acquisition has not, according to Beyers.

According to this data, Pixar has earned $1.8 billion in gross profit for Disney to Marvel’s $1.5 billion. Beyers seem to fail to consider, however, that Pixar has been a Disney subsidiary for three years longer than Marvel, or that Pixar was acquired for $3.2 billion more than Marvel.

And while motion pictures and their ancillary products are the leading source of revenue for both Marvel and Pixar, Beyers doesn’t mention other aspects of Marvel and Pixar’s business that earn profits for Disney’s bottom line.

Here's Beyer's chart:

Metric
Marvel
Pixar

Number of films since acquisition

8

8

Worldwide grosses

$6,304,740,356

$4,781,944,543

Production, marketing, distribution costs

$1,765,000,000

$1,970,000,000

Estimated box office profit

$1,242,987,206

$651,963,846

Home video sales

$395,612,472

$1,608,528,731

Estimated gross profit

$1,539,696,560

$1,858,360,394

Estimated profit margin

22.98%

27.12%

Sources: Box Office Mojo, Boxoffice.com, The-Numbers.com, and author's estimates.

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