Comic company to pay distrib 10%

Marvel Enterprises will pay Paramount, or any other studio, a 10% distribution fee as it sets out to make its own pics.

Company disclosed the maximum fee allowable under its loan structure during a conference call with Wall Streeters. Briefing was designed to introduce the studio’s new management team sans Avi Arad and detail its upcoming slate.

The absence of Arad, who shocked many by stepping down from his post as chairman of Marvel Studios in May, was somewhat surprising as he is still producing several Marvel pics and is drawing his full salary until the end of the year as a “creative adviser.”

Asked about Arad’s absence, a Marvel spokesman noted that “Avi has his own production company now, and these are the Marvel executives putting forth the long-term strategy.”

Investors and the press had become used to the boisterous exec as the public face of the company; Thursday call was the first major Marvel Studios event with prexy Michael Helfant and production topper Kevin Feige out front.

Marvel will use the $525 million Merrill Lynch debt facility to fund its slate, which will kick off with “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” in 2008. Par is set to release most of the Marvel pics, although Universal will distribute “Iron Man.”

Responding to an analyst’s question, studio execs said they aren’t worried about saturating the marketplace by turning out two pics a year. They said there continues to be a “large appetite” for such pics.

Films are expected to cost $130 million or less.

Marvel execs also tried to allay concerns over New Line putting “Iron Man” into turnaround and U giving back the rights for the “Hulk” sequel. They said these are common practices in Hollywood.

Asked about potential sequels, studio said there would probably be a gap of 18-30 months between installments.

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