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Iron Man Drives Marvel's 40 Percent Earnings Growth

Marvel Entertainment's new strategy of producing its own movies, instead of just licensing the rights to its characters, seems to really be working. This morning Marvel Entertainment reported its third-quarter net income grew 40 percent thanks to the performance of its "Iron Man" movie, both in terms of box office and DVD sales.

This on a 48 percent increase in net sales to $182.5 million—$60 million of that came from "Iron Man"'s box office. Marvel beat Wall Street expectations and raised its earnings and revenue forecast for the full year.

But looking forward to 2009, the studio was less optimistic than the forecast Wall Street had expected. David Maisel, Chairman of Marvel Studios, says the company hasn't seen any impact from the economic downturn yet, but it is calculating in a tougher environment for its comic book and merchandise sales. The big reason 2009 will be tough: the studio isn't releasing any new movies, its next films not coming out until 2010.

In a "first on CNBC" interview I asked Maiselabout the company's new agreement to distribute its five next films through Viacom's Paramount Pictures. Maisel says the agreement should achieve certain economies of scale for Marvel, giving the studio better terms. And Maisel pointed to the fact that Paramount did a great job marketing and distributing "Iron Man," so this should bode well for future box office performance. Marvel has been transformed from a comic book company to a full-scale content generator and independent studio. And the strategy seems to be on fire.

    • 'Iron Man' lifts Marvel Entertainment 2008 outlook

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