Marvel heroes team for DVD toon

Lions Gate to finance prod'n, distrib'n, marketing costs

NEW YORK — A direct-to-DVD feature version of “The Avengers” will be the first release from the Lions Gate/Marvel Enterprises multi-picture homevideo pact.

Lions Gate’s Family Home Entertainment division said the new animated film will feature a cast of several Marvel superheroes, including Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man.

Under the made-for-DVD pact agreed to in May, Lions Gate will finance all production, distribution and marketing costs on eight original animated features based on Marvel’s library of comic characters. The comic company is spearheading creative development on the titles and licensing the characters.

Lions Gate will pay Marvel a licensing fee for the character rights. After the homevideo window expires, the two may license the movies domestically and internationally in other entertainment media, including TV and video-on-demand. The two companies will share profits from each release.

Production on “The Avengers” — to be based on the Marvel Comics series “The Ultimates” — is already under way, and is expected to hit stores in early 2006.

” ‘The Avengers’ are a superhero team for the ages that combines many of Marvel’s most popular and enduring characters into one cohesive unit,” said David Maisel, prexy and chief operating officer of Marvel Studios.

The two companies have previously worked together on theatrical release “The Punisher” and are co-developing theatrical versions of “Iron Fist” and “Black Widow.”

After its purchase of Artisan Entertainment earlier this year, Lions Gate’s library now totals some 8,000 titles, many of which are family-entertainment video series.

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