'Iron Man 2,' 'Thor,' 'Avengers' on slate
After a boffo bow for its first pic, “Iron Man,” Marvel Studios has skedded a series of superhero follow-ups through 2011.First up from the film division of the Marvel comicbook giant is an “Iron Man” sequel aimed to bow on April 30, 2010, planting the flag again on the start of the summer movie sesh. Also for that year, Marvel plans to bow “Thor” on June 4, based on the Norse god who wields a giant hammer. Matthew Vaughn is set to helm. In 2011, company will unspool “The First Avenger: Captain America” on May 6; and “The Avengers,” which will team up the Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor characters, in July. Zak Penn is writing the latter. Paramount will distrib all the pics, as part of its pact with Marvel. Studios have yet to set a major tentpole on any of those dates, so the superhero pics face little if any competition so far. Marvel’s next self-financed pic, “The Incredible Hulk,” smashes into multiplexes June 13, with Universal distribbing. Company is essentially sitting out 2009 because of the development and production delays created by the winter’s writers strike. “Ant-Man” also is in development, with Edgar Wright attached to write and direct, but that project has yet to be dated. “Iron Man’s” $102 million domestic haul over its first four days boosted the confidence of the company, which is now ponying up the cash to produce its own pics in order to reap the financial rewards. Sony and Fox collected much of the coin from the success of the “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” films, all based on Marvel properties. A fourth Spidey is in the works. “This is clearly a transformative time for Marvel,” said Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel in a conference call with investors. “It was important for us to get much more control of our destiny and the ability to greenlight and make these movies on a predictable basis.” “Iron Man” already started to benefit Marvel’s bottom line on Monday: Shares of parent Marvel Entertainment rose more than 9% to close at $33.10, a gain of $2.85. Marvel’s profits were down 3% in the first quarter that ended March 31, coming in at $45 million from nearly $47 million in the same year-ago period when “Spider-Man 3″ was readying to swing into theaters. Revenue declined 26% to $112.6 million from $151.4 million, with its publishing biz down 4% to $26.5 million, and licensing falling more than 29% to $84.6 million because of a dropoff in sales of “Spider-Man 3″ merchandise and its licensing deal with Hasbro not generating as much coin as in the past. Marvel Studios narrowed its losses from $3 million to $2 million. That’s expected to drop even further now that the company can start adding B.O. to its earnings. Overall, Marvel upped its outlook for the rest of the year, saying it expects profits to come in at around $104 million to $122 million on revenue of $370 million to $400 million. It previously forecast profits of between $100 million and $118 million. Its forecasts do not include revs or costs tied to the B.O., homevid, television or media sales for the “Iron Man” or “Hulk” pics.