Walt Disney Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Robert A. Iger said its Marvel Entertainment group is already in development on a sequel to "The Avengers," which shattered the opening weekend box-office record domestically -- and in markets around the world.
The movie, featuring a slew of stars including Robert Downey Jr., raked in $207 million in its first three days of release in the United States, bringing its global box office to around $702 million.
"It's a great illustration of why we like Marvel so much -- great characters, great storytelling and a wonderful ability for them to bring their characters and stories to the big screen so effectively," Iger told analysts Tuesday during the company's quarterly earnings call.
Disney is aggressively mining Marvel's library of comic-book characters, who were the key attraction when the Burbank entertainment giant acquired Marvel for $4 billion in 2009. Disney plans to release "Iron Man 3" and "Thor 2" next year, Iger said, with a sequel to "Captain America: The First Avenger" due out in 2014.
The success of "The Avengers" is propelling merchandise sales. In many cases, products are sold out, Iger said, prompting the global licensing team to work with licensees and retailers to restock shelves as quickly as possible. Even Marvel's big green monster, the Hulk, is getting love from consumers, thanks to Mark Ruffalo's portrayal of Bruce Banner and his powerful alter ego.
"We expect, given the interest in this film, that demand for its product is going continue to be strong pretty much throughout the year," Iger said.
Iger also said that Disney's parks and resorts planning group, known as the "Imagineers," have been working on ways to incorporate Marvel into the company's theme parks, beyond Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., where Universal Studios holds the rights to the characters.
"We have a number of other opportunities ... at our other parks, notably California and Europe and in Asia -- I guess that pretty much covers the rest of the world," Iger said. "And our Imagineering group has been working over the last year ... to create more opportunities for Marvel in the parks."
Photo of Chris Evans, portraying Captain America, left, and Robert Downey Jr., portraying Tony Stark, are shown in a scene from 'The Avengers." Credit: Zade Rosethal / Disney
-- Dawn C. Chmielewski