In the early hours of tomorrow morning, the long-awaited merger between entertainment giants Disney and Fox will finally happen - and it could mean big things for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Over the past 15 years or so, Marvel characters have dominated cinema screens, with the likes of Iron Man and Wolverine becoming firmly entrenched at the more successful end of box office records, and recent movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther absolutely cleaning up.
It's all been helped by the MCU characters' ability to cross over between films, meaning all the movies form individual parts of one huge saga, as well as stand-alone adventures in their own right. But of course, there's always been one crucial issue for fans - due to differences in studio licensing rights, not all of their comic book favourites have been able to wander into each other's stories.
How so? Well, basically, the characters who formed the MCU (the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy et al) were licensed by Disney, whereas the X-Men and Deadpool were licensed by Fox. So while comic book readers might have been used to Spider-Man teaming up with Wolverine on the page, there was sadly no chance of that happening on the big screen.
Good news: that's where the merger comes in. This $71.3 billion deal finally brings Fox-licensed characters like the X-Men, Deadpool and even the Fantastic Four into the same deal as the characters featured in the MCU - meaning the odds on future spin-offs and cross-overs are pretty good.
However, this could have been a very different story, as things haven't always been so good for Marvel studios, which was on the cusp of going under in 1994, as the bubble finally burst surrounding the era's much-touted 'comic book boom'. Deals had to be brokered surrounding the rights to various characters, and studios were initially unsure as to the profitability of the characters.
However, the big screen success of the Marvel character Blade changed all that, and the turn of the century saw Marvel's characters finally making waves at the box office, as first X-Men (Fox, 2000) and then Spider-Man (Sony, 2002) attracted huge audiences.
Soon enough, Marvel began to produce movies under its own banner - and since then it's not only survived, it has thrived, raking in billions. In 2009, parent company Marvel Entertainment was bought out by Disney... and the rest is history.
With another 20 Marvel films set to hit the big screen between now and 2028, there's no sign of the blockbuster studio letting up, so it might not be long before audiences get to see Hulk, Black Widow, Deadpool and The Thing appearing in each other's movies.
After news that the merger would be completed this week, Ryan Reynolds - aka Deadpool - tweeted a picture to show his excitement.
Posting a photo of his superhero character sat on a school bus with Mickey Mouse ears on his head, the actor wrote: "Feels like the first day of 'pool."
Marvel fans were quick to comment on the post, sharing their excitement.
The Disney merger brings the likes of the Fantastic Four and Avengers under the same production company. Credit: Fox
One person wrote: "Give em hell on the play ground dp."
Another added: "Welcome to your new pool, less cursing less violence but more crossovers!!!"
A third fan said: "Deadpool 1 really got made at the perfect time.. welcome to the party!"
Now we just need the Sony-licensed Venom to cross over, and things can get really exciting. A few questions do remain, however.
Firstly, will future Deadpool movies continue to pick up R ratings, or will they be geared towards a more toned-down PG-13, in keeping with most MCU flicks?
Also, with Hugh Jackman now retired from the role of Wolverine, who will play the adamantium-clawed hothead in future movies?
And will the studio dare to try and resurrect the lifeless corpse of The Fantastic Four, which has gone through two big-screen outings without managing to capture the public imagination?
Now the merger is a done deal, I guess we won't have long to wait.
Featured Image Credit: Marvel