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Marvel Entertainment raises forecast, promises 'Iron Man 2'

As "Iron Man" smashed its way to an estimated $201 million in worldwide box office sales, Marvel Entertainment Inc. raised its profit forecast Monday for the year and promised to release "Iron Man 2" in 2010.
/ Source: The Associated Press

As "Iron Man" smashed its way to an estimated $201 million in worldwide box office sales, Marvel Entertainment Inc. raised its profit forecast Monday for the year and promised to release "Iron Man 2" in 2010.

The film was the first that Marvel financed itself and culminated a five-year plan to break from its strategy of licensing its top comic book heroes to other studios.

"This is clearly a transformative time for Marvel," Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel told analysts on a conference call. "It was important for us to get much more control of our destiny and the ability to green-light and make these movies on a predictable basis."

The company said its improved forecast did not include upside from the box office success of "Iron Man," only its better-than-expected first-quarter performance.

Marvel shares jumped $2.85, or 9.4 percent, to $33.10 Monday.

The company said first-quarter profit dipped 3 percent to $45.2 million, or 58 cents per share, but that beat analysts' prediction of 43 cents, according to Thomson Financial.

Revenue fell 26 percent to $112.6 million from $151.4 million, but also beat the estimate of $111.7 million.

The company raised the lower end of its guidance for revenue for the year by $10 million, to $370 million to $400 million, and bumped up both ends of its net profit forecast range by 5 cents to $1.35 to $1.55.

Analysts said the figures underestimated the boost the company would get from "Iron Man," its newest hero in a flying suit.

"This performance far exceeded our estimate," said Stifel Nicolaus and Co. analyst Drew Crum. He said he expected the film to add 55 cents per share to profit for the year, up from an estimate of 15 cents.

RBC Capital Markets Corp. said the film's domestic box office sales of $102.1 million was about 50 percent better than expected, and the analyst firm doubled its expectations for the film to $275 million to $325 million in the U.S. alone.

Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures distributed the film.

With Robert Downey Jr. heading the cast, the film was the second-best U.S. premiere ever for a nonsequel, Marvel said.

The studio will release "The Incredible Hulk" on June 13.

In line with its upbeat results, Marvel announced a slate of upcoming self-produced films including "Iron Man 2" on April 30, 2010, "Thor" on June 4, 2010, and "The First Avenger: Captain America" on May 6, 2011.

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Marvel Entertainment Inc.: http://www.marvel.com