In its fourth quarter report, Marvel Ent. Inc. revealed that it has regained the film rights to the Incredible Hulk character and is very aggressively developing a sequel to the HULK feature film. Marvel Studios head Avi Arad said in the Earnings Conference Call that Universal would still distribute the sequel.
In terms of Marvels in-house development slate, this adds the last missing member of The Avengers team back into the control of Marvel. The studio previously announced that it is in development on an AVENGERS feature film, which would be made after their self-produced feature CAPTAIN AMERICA hits theaters in 2008. In November 2005, Marvel gained the film rights to Iron Man from New Line. Iron Man is also a member of the Avengers team, which just debuted in its directed animated direct-to-DVD feature, titled THE ULTIMATE AVENGERS.
It seems Marvels strategy with the characters it controls is to set up strong solo projects for the better known members of the Avengers team Captain America, Iron Man and the Hulk hoping the success of those films will build interest for an AVENGERS feature. With its development slate already including solo films starring Avenger members Ant-Man, Hawkeye and Nick Fury, Marvel Studios also seems to be looking at THE AVENGERS franchise as a launching platform for spin-off films as well.
Commenting on the financial results, Marvel's chairman, Morton Handel, said, "We are pleased with the financial results for 2005 and the strong cash flows generated by our operations. Several watershed events in 2005 have set the stage for the next phase of Marvel's growth. We announced a slate of feature films to be produced by Marvel using non-recourse, third-party debt financing. We are actively working on scripts for CAPTAIN AMERICA, ANT-MAN and NICK FURY and expect that one of these could be our first film in production next year with a release in 2008. In addition, the rights for HULK and IRON MAN reverted back to Marvel, which will enable the company to secure a significantly higher portion of the economic benefit than under the previous licenses signed several years ago. In global licensing, we completed a videogame extension agreement with Activision for our SPIDER-MAN and X-MEN properties and announced a multi-player online persistent universe game with Microsoft, both leaders in their respective industry segments. Lastly, early in 2006 we entered into a five-year toy license with Hasbro in the action figure and role play toy categories, which should extend the global reach of the Marvel brand."
The future feature slate for the studio will see X-MEN 3 released by Fox on May 26, 2006, followed by GHOST RIDER and SPIDER-MAN 3 from Sony and Fantastic Four 2 from Fox in 2007. In addition, the studio has WOLVERINE in development at Fox and THE PUNISHER 2 in the works at Lionsgate. Marvel previously announced that it would produce features based on Black Panther, Cloak & Dagger, Doctor Strange, Power Pack and Shang-Chi as well.
On the animation front, Marvel is in works with Lionsgate on three more direct-to-video animated features ULTIMATE AVENGERS 2, IRON MAN and DOCTOR STRANGE. On TV, Marvel is in works with Moonscoop SAS (formerly Antefilms Prods.) to produce an original animated television series based on the FANTASTIC FOUR. In addition, Marvel is developing animated series based on WOLVERINE and IRON MAN.
As for live-action TV projects, Marvel is working with Spike TV on the BLADE series as well as developing series based on ALTER EGO and SKRULL KILL KREW.
With a library of more than 5,000 characters, Marvel Ent. Inc. (www.marvel.com) is one of the world's most prominent character-based entertainment companies. Marvel's operations are focused on utilizing its character franchises in licensing, entertainment, publishing and toys. Areas of emphasis include feature films, DVD/home video, consumer products, video games, action figures and role-playing toys, television and promotions. Rooted in the creative success of over sixty years of comicbook publishing, Marvel's strategy is to leverage its character franchises in a growing array of opportunities around the world.