Blockbuster bolsters profits, sales outlook

“Iron Man” turned out to be a $100 million man during its opening weekend and Marvel Entertainment on Monday boosted its full-year profit and sales outlook.

While Marvel’s profits for the first quarter fell 3 percent to $45.2 million, or 58 cents per share, from $46.8 million, or 54 cent, earnings from the same quarter last year were partly due to another big release, Spider-Man III.

The difference in per-share earnings is due to a change in the number of outstanding shares.

Results were better than the per-share profit of 43 cents forecast by analysts, according to a poll by Thomson Financial. Analyst estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Shares rose 7.4 percent, or $2.25, to $32.50 in early trading. Shares hit an all-time high of $33.24 shortly after the opening bell.

Marvel Entertainment Inc. had a stellar weekend as “Iron Man” raked in $100.7 million, and has earned $104.2 million since debuting Thursday night. The Robert Downey Jr.-led film posted second-best premiere ever for a nonsequel, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The film’s international performance was also impressive, with $96.7 million in 57 countries where it began opening Wednesday.

For the period ended March 31, revenue declined 26 percent to $112.6 million, from $151.4 million, but beat Wall Street’s estimate of $111.7 million.

Publishing revenue edged down 4 percent to $26.5 million, while losses in its film production segment narrowed to $2 million, from $3 million a year earlier.

New York-based Marvel boosted its full-year earnings outlook to a range of $104 million to $122 million, or $1.35 to $1.55 per share. It previously forecast a profit between $100 million and $118 million profit, or $1.30 to $1.50 per share.

The company lifted its revenue forecast to a range of $370 million to $400 million, up from $360 million to $400 million.

Analysts had predicted annual earnings of $1.58 per share on sales of $490.1 million, according to Thomson Financial.

The company said its forecasts do not include revenue or expenses related to the box office, home video/DVD, television or media sales performance of its “Iron Man” or “The Incredible Hulk” films.

“Iron Man,” distributed by Paramount, is the first release by Marvel Studios, which has begun financing its own productions after such studio-backed hits as the “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” films.

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