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How Marvel is Turning to Short Films to Sell More DVDs, Blu-rays

The shorts give Marvel a way to give fans more backstory to characters that may not warrant their own film franchises

Marvel Studios has figured out a clever way to tell more stories featuring its heroes, while also giving consumers more of a reason to buy its films when they’re released on homevideo.

The company has produced a series of short films under the “Marvel One-Shots” moniker that are exclusively released on DVD and Blu-ray.

The latest short, “Agent Carter,” starring Hayley Atwell, debuts with the “Iron Man 3Blu-ray on Sept. 24, and digital on Sept. 3, and revolves around the character of Peggy Carter in search of a mysterious item known as the Zodiac as she works for an organization that later becomes S.H.I.E.L.D. Film begins with the final scene of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” as Carter says goodbye to Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers, and then flash forward to a year after “Captain America.” Marvel Studios co-president Louis D’Esposito directed the short, which also features Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”) and Shane Black (in a voice cameo). Atwell also appears in the upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

The short was introduced at Comic-Con in San Diego last week.

SEE ALSO: Comic-Con: What Joss Whedon Has Planned for ‘The Avengers’ Sequel

Three others — “The Consultant,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to “Thor’s Hammer” and “Item 47” — appeared on the discs for “The Avengers,” “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Eric Pearson penned all of the short films.

Each short is designed to be a self-contained story that provides more backstory of the characters audiences have gotten to know through the “Iron Man,” “Thor” and “Captain America” films. The first two were four minutes, while “Item 47” is 12 minutes. “Agent Carter” is the longest at around 15 minutes.

“The Consultant:” Directed by RSA’s animation director Leythum, the short revolves around the Marvel character Emil Blonsky, who turns into the Abomination (seen in “The Incredible Hulk”) being recruited to join the Avengers Initiative, and stars Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson (Marvel’s “Agents of SHIELD”), and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. Short was released on the “Thor” Blu-ray discs in 2011.

In “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer,” Gregg returns as Agent Coulson who confronts robbers in a diner while on his way to retrieve Thor’s hammer in New Mexico. Short was also helmed by Leythum. Both “The Consultant” and “Funny Thing” featured music by Paul Oakenfold. Short was released on the “Captain America: The First Avenger” discs in 2011.

 Lizzy Caplan and Jesse Bradford starred in “Item 47” as a couple that discover a weapon of the Chitauri, the alien villains in “The Avengers,” after their battle with the superheroes in New York City. D’Esposito directed the short that was released with “The Avengers” discs last year.

The shorts are seen as a “fun way to experiment with new characters and ideas, but more importantly it’s a way for us to expand the Marvel cinematic universe and tell stories that live outside the plot of our features,’ according to co-producer Brad Winderbaum. At the same time, the shorts are a way for Marvel to give smaller films to characters that may not warrant their own stand-alone franchises.

Shorts featuring “Thor’s” Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), Nick Fury and Black Panther had been developed but were scrapped because the cost to produce them would have been too high to make them worth it.

In addition to releasing the shorts on homevideo, Marvel is considering introducing them in theaters before a Marvel film release.

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