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Marvel Boosts Outlook Even Without "Iron Man"

Marvel Entertainment, which licenses comic-book characters, posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on strong global demand for its products, and also raised its 2008 outlook, sending its shares up 8 percent.

The company's first self-produced movie "Iron Man" had a dream run at the box office this weekend, raking in more than $100 million domestically, topping expectations.

First-quarter net income for Marvel , which houses a cast of more than 5,000 characters including The Incredible Hulk and X-Men, was $45.2 million, or 58 cents a share, compared with $46.8 million, or 54 cents a share.

But net sales fell more than 25 percent to $112.6 million.

Revenue from licensing fell more than 29 percent to $84.6 million, mainly due to lower net sales from the Spider-Man merchandising joint venture with Sony and a substantial decline in income from its licensee Hasbro.

Analysts on average expected earnings of 45 cents a share, before items, on revenue of $113.5 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

For 2008, Marvel raised the lower end of its net sales outlook to a range of $370 million to $400 million, from its prior view of $360 million to $400 million.

The company also raised its earnings outlook range to $1.35 to $1.55 a share from its earlier view of $1.30 to $1.50 a share.

Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.53 a share, before items, on revenue of $466.9 million.

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Encouraged by Iron Man's performance at the box office, Marvel said it would release a sequel on April 30, 2010.

"Iron Man" generated an estimated domestic box office of $100.75 million for the three-day weekend, representing the 10th best opening weekend ever, the company said.

The movie, which cost about $150 million to make and $75 million to market, generated an estimated $201 million in global box office to date.

"Iron Man-2" will be followed by the launch of Thor on June 4, 2010, and two Avenger-themed movies in the summer of 2011, the company said.

Marvel's "The Incredible Hulk" is slated for a June release. The company will not release a self-produced film in 2009.

Shares of the company rose to $32.80 in trade before the bell. They closed at $30.25 Friday.