Sony film carries company to big earnings

Spider-Man’s third bigscreen adventure at Sony helped Marvel Entertainment spin boffo earnings in its third quarter, beating Wall Street expectations.

Licensing revenue from toys and games based on the Sony-distribbed “Spider-Man 3” helped triple the comicbook publisher’s third-quarter earnings.

Net income for the three-month period leapt to $36.3 million from $13.2 million a year ago. Overall sales rose 34% to $123.6 million from $92.2 million.

Licensing sales more than doubled to $66 million, with “Spider-Man 3” alone accounting for $24.2 million of that figure as part of a joint venture with Sony.

Publisher’s aggressively going after licensing revenue, especially as more of its properties and characters are turned into films, TV shows, direct-to-DVD pics, stage productions and videogames. “Spider-Man”-based licensed product is expected to make up 15% of its business in 2008, the company said.

Comicbook publisher’s film arm, Marvel Studios, is in the midst of producing its first self-financed pics, “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk,” both set to bow in summer.

Division also is self-financing pics based on “Ant-Man,” “Captain America,” “Thor” and “The Avengers.”

Elsewhere, Fox is readying “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” skedded for a 2009 release, while Lionsgate has “The Punisher 2” for next year. In addition to Spidey, Marvel also co-produced the pics “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “Ghost Rider” this year.

“Fantastic Four,” “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man,” “Hulk,” “Wolverine and the X-Men” are also getting the animated TV treatment.

Marvel’s stock rose nearly 18% on the news to close at $27.44.

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