Marvel-ous movies

Pic steam pushes comic publisher into black

Marvel Enterprises swung into the black in the fourth quarter as upbeat execs anticipated a stream of profits from Hollywood movie deals.

Sony isn’t the only one crowing over the widely anticipated “Spider-Man,” due out May 3. Pic is likely to raise the revamped comicbook concern to the next level, said CEO Peter Cuneo on Friday. Director Sam Raimi and cast have signed on for a sequel, with production to start in January.

Marvel has a gross participation in Spidey pic plus a share of ancillary video/DVD and licensing revenue.

Bigscreen boom

New Line’s “Blade II” premiered Friday. Fox and New Regency’s “Daredevil,” Fox’s “X-Men II” and Universal’s “The Incredible Hulk” — all based on Marvel characters — are due out in 2003. Long-term franchises promise once-bankrupt Marvel the predictable revenue it has sought for years, Cuneo and Marvel Studios topper Avi Arad told investors in a Friday conference call.

Income of $18.4 million in the fourth quarter compared with a loss of $57.4 million the year before. Contributing to the swing was a one-time gain of about $19 million from buying back Marvel bonds at a discount.

Toying around

Revenue fell 23% to $49.6 million after the company restructured, farming out a big chunk of its toy business and taking royalties only. Execs said that company can now participate in the advantages of, and is shielded from capital spending and inventory risks inherent in, the toy biz. Marvel’s three main units are toys, licensing and publishing.

For all of 2001, sales fell 22% to $181 million. Losses narrowed to $11 million from $105 million.

Marvel shares Friday jumped nearly 10% to $8.35 on a down day for the market and most showbiz stocks.

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