Entertainment Industry

Category: Marvel

'The Avengers' to assemble -- for a sequel

The avengers
The superhero team that conquered the U.S. box office will be suiting up for a return engagement.

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."


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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

'Avengers' final opening weekend tally: $207.4 million

"The Avengers" sold $207.4 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekendTurns out "The Avengers" didn't sell $200.3 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, as Walt Disney Studios announced Sunday. It made even more.

The Marvel superhero movie actually collected $207.4 million, as it grossed more on Sunday than Disney, Marvel's owner and the movie's distributor, estimated that morning. Disney had said the film would collect $50 million, but it ended up with $57 million.

Sunday morning estimates are often off slightly, but it's rare that they underestimate a film's take by more than a few million dollars. And in the case of "Avengers," it means the record for the all-time biggest domestic opening weekend is now even higher in the stratosphere.

Overseas, "The Avengers" has grossed a total of $447.4 million since opening two weeks ago. Its international gross this past weekend was also higher than Disney estimated on Sunday: $157.5 million, compared with $151.5 million.


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Photo: Actors Tom Hiddleston, third from left, and Clark Gregg, second from right, pose for a photo as part of a celebration of the release of "The Avengers" after ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on May 1. Credit: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

'Avengers' scores No. 2 opening day of all time with $80.5 million


On its first day in domestic release "The Avengers" packed theaters and thrilled audiences.

The team-up of Marvel superheroes including Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk took in $80.5 million at the box office Friday, according to an estimate from distributor Walt DIsney Studios. That's the second-biggest day of all time, behind only last year's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2," which took in $91.1 million.

"The Avengers" grabbed the all-time No. 2 spot for a single day from "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," which took in $72.7 million in 2009.

Just as importantly, moviegoers gave the film an average grade of A+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Such a perfect score is very rare and indicates word-of-mouth will be excellent and many fans will likely return for repeat viewings.

"Avengers" is now sure to gross more than $150 million through Sunday, giving it one of the biggest opening weekends of all time. If Saturday ticket sales are bigger than they were for the final "Potter" film, the superhero blockbuster still has a chance of recording the biggest opening weekend of all time, beating the $169.2-million record set by "Deathly Hallows -- Part 2."

Meanwhile, as of Thursday, "The Avengers" had raked in a massive $304 million overseas, a figure sure to soar much higher by Sunday.


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Photo: Marvel comics fans in superhero outfits pose at a preview of 'The Avengers' in Madrid. Credit: Luca Piergiovani / EPA

'Avengers' grosses $18.7 million in late-night shows

With the sun rising on its first day in U.S. theaters, "The Avengers" has already taken in $322.7 million at the global box officeWith the sun rising on its first day in U.S. theaters, "The Avengers" has already taken in $322.7 million at the global box office.

Marvel's superhero team-up movie took in $18.7 million from screenings at or soon after midnight Friday morning in the U.S. and Canada, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios. That's the eighth-highest total ever for midnight screenings, behind March's "The Hunger Games" and the last three "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" movies.

Most significant for Disney, all of those films that debuted on a Friday went on to have huge opening weekends of more than $125 million. "Avengers" seems destined to do that, with pre-release surveys indicating that the debut will likely exceed $150 million. That would put the film among the top five domestic openings of all time, not accounting for ticket-price inflation.

The picture, which teams previous Marvel movie characters Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America with other superheroes, is already a tremendous hit overseas, where it opened in most countries last week. Including $22.9 million in receipts Thursday, its international take currently stands at $304 million.

By Sunday, "Avengers," which cost $220 million to produce, could amass nearly $600 million in worldwide ticket sales.


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Photo: Fans at Marvel's "Avengers" premiere in London on April 19. Credit: Justin Tallis / AFP

Disney, DMG team up to make 'Iron Man 3' a Chinese co-production

Iron man 2

The Walt Disney Co. and its Marvel Studios subsidiary said Monday that "Iron Man 3" will be a co-production with China, as the Burbank company teamed with DMG Entertainment of Beijing to co-finance and distribute the film.

Robert Downey, Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle will return for the third movie in the hit franchise, whose two films grossed more than $1 billion worldwide and $42.8 million between them in China. The third installment of the movie will be directed by Shane Black unlike the first two installments which were directed by Jon Favreau. Filming in the U.S. is to start in May, and in China in late summer; the movie is slated for release in May 2013.

Foreign films co-produced in China have an easier time getting cleared by Chinese censors and do not fall under the country's annual import cap. 

“The popularity of the Marvel franchise globally creates a huge opportunity to deliver fans yet another action packed film,” Stanley Cheung, Disney’s greater China managing director, said in a statement.

DMG and Disney did not reveal how much DMG would invest in the production, nor did they give specifics about what plot elements would be shot in China. Last week, DMG's chief executive Dan Mintz told the Los Angeles Times that the film's budget was $200 million.  A Disney spokeswoman said she had not heard what the budget was to be.

DMG is a 19-year-old private Beijing advertising firm-turned-film producer and aspiring distributor. It is a partnership between two Chinese and Mintz, an American. 

DMG will manage the Chinese production elements of “Iron Man 3’’ and keep the China distribution rights.

“Our collaboration with Disney and Marvel marks a milestone in the global entertainment landscape, as this signifies the first multi-billion dollar franchise to be produced between Hollywood and China,” Mintz said in the statement.

DMG boasts close working ties with the state-run China Film Group, the country’s biggest studio and monopoly importer. DMG helped CFG with the production and marketing of two recent major propaganda films, one made to mark the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic in 2009 and the other the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Both films were hits but were still out-earned by Hollywood imports.

Last spring at a black-tie party, Mintz emceed the announcement of DMG’s partnership with Endgame Entertainment to make Rian Johnson's film “Looper.” DMG added little-known Chinese actress Xu Qing to the time-travel action film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, which will arrive in U.S. theaters this fall.

In an interview with The Times last week, Mintz said DMG was going to “talk to the whole world but try to infuse Chinese elements.”

The announcement on "Iron Man 3" comes just days after Disney said it would join an initiative with an animation arm of China's Ministry of Culture and China's largest Internet company, Tencent Holdings Ltd., to develop China's animation industry. Disney said it would offer its expertise in areas such as story writing and market research to help develop local Chinese talent.

In the first quarter, China overtook Japan as the world’s second biggest box office market after the U.S. Last year, China's box office posted its 10th consecutive year of double-digit growth to gross $2.08 billion, up 31% from 2010.


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Photo: Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark in the movie "Iron Man 2." Credit: Francois Duhamel / Marvel Entertainment 

Marvel characters at Disney theme parks?

The Walt Disney Co. has done preliminary work on introducing Marvel's superhero characters to the happiest place on earth: Disney's theme parks.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger told shareholders attending an annual meeting that the company has had a number of discussions and done preliminary design work that it hopes will one day lead to Marvel characters appearing, as Disney's other familiar faces do, in the theme parks.

"We haven't announced anything yet," Iger said Tuesday, in response to a question posed by a shareholder at the company's annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo. "But we're working on some concepts."

When Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4 billion in 2009, the Burbank entertainment giant talked about incorporating the comic book giant's library of 5,000 characers throughout its various businesses -- which include movies, television shows and merchandise. Indeed, a new animated television series, "Ultimate Spider-Man," kicks off a new programming block April 1 that's devoted to Marvel characters on its boy-focused cable network, Disney XD. And Marvel's big screen presentation of "The Avengers" superhero mash-up will be in theaters this summer under the Disney banner. Disney showed a film trailer to investors at its annual meeting.

Iger didn't mention which Disney parks might get some Marvel muscle -- just a vague reference to "a few places around the world." Its theme park competitor, Universal Studios, operates the Marvel Super Hero Island attraction in Orlando, Fla.

For the moment, Disney is focused on an ambitious theme park project based on director James Cameron's blockbuster science-fiction fantasy, "Avatar." Disney struck a licensing deal with Cameron, his producing parter, Jon Landau, and film distributor 20th Century Fox, to develop rides and attractions based on the 2009 hit.

The first "Avatar" inspired land is planned for Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Iger told shareholders that the new attraction won't likely open until 2015.

In other developments at the shareholders meeting, Iger announced a company-wide initiative to hire at least 1,000 returning veterans over the next three years.  Dubbed "Heroes Work Here," Iger said, the program "reflects our commitment to hire, train and support military veterans and military families."

Disney stockholders re-elected all 10 members of Disney's board, including Iger as the company's new chairman. A proxy advisory firm had recommended investors withhold votes for the four members of the board's Nominating and Governance Committee in protest of the decision to give Iger the combined title of chairman and chief executive.

Shareholders also approved the company's executive pay plan in an advisory vote.


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On Location: 'Iron Man 3' lands in North Carolina


In a blow to Los Angeles' below-the-line community, Marvel Studios will take its next "Iron Man" movie to Wilmington, N.C.

After weeks of speculation about where the movie would land, EUE/Screen Gems co-owner and Chief Operating Officer Chris Cooney confirmed Thursday that Manhattan Beach-based Marvel will shoot its next "Iron Man" movie at his studio in North Carolina.

“We aggressively pursued this piece of business,” Cooney said at a press conference held at the studio. “We negotiated hard and it paid off.”

Marvel also had been considering Michigan, but uncertainty surrounding the future of that state's tax credit took it out of the running.  Marvel executives also weighed filming in Los Angeles -- where the first two films in the superhero franchise were shot -- and New Mexico, but executives were ultimately wooed by North Carolina’s 25% film tax credit, in addition to the large Wilmington studio. California offers a film credit of up to 25% but it excludes big-budget movies like "Iron Man 3."

“We have a massive film facility and the third-largest film and television based crew in the country,” EUE/Screen Gems Executive President Bill Vassar said.

Vassar also noted that EUE/Screen Gem’s relationship with Disney, which bought Marvel Studios in 2009, played an instrumental role in getting Marvel executives to consider the Wilmington studio for filming. EUE/Screen Gems, which owns additional studios in Manhattan and Atlanta, also operates a lighting and grip company in Charleston, S.C., that has worked with Disney on several projects including the ABC pilot “Revenge" and four seasons of the television series “Army Wives."

“We’ve been under Disney’s radar for a long time,” Vassar said. “We have a wonderful relationship with them.”

“Iron Man 3,” scheduled for a 2013 release with a budget estimated at more than $140 million, will be the largest film to shoot in North Carolina so far. Offices will open in early January and cameras are expected to start rolling in the spring, Vassar said.

Most of the production, expected to last about 10 months, will take place in the state. Marvel will use all 10 of EUE/Screen Gem’s stages, the largest of which is 37,5000 square feet and includes a special-effects water tank, over the course of production.

At the press conference, North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue predicted an economic windfall for the state. The movie is expected to create 550 jobs for crew members and crafts people and pump $80 million into North Carolina's economy, Perdue said.

Representatives of Marvel were unavailable for comment.


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Photo: EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, N.C. Credit: EUE/Screen Gems.

California man charged with insider trading in Disney-Marvel deal

Marvel's Spider-Man

A California man has been charged with insider trading for using confidential information gleaned from his girlfriend about Walt Disney Co.'s planned acquisition of Marvel Entertainment to reap a $192,000 stock trading windfall, according to a complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Toby G. Scammell allegedly purchased options in Marvel in the weeks prior to the high-profile August 2009 announcement, based on information he obtained while overhearing his girlfriend's conversations regarding the Marvel deal, according to the complaint.

The girlfriend, who worked in Disney's corporate strategy department, received detailed information about the $4-billion purchase -- including the $50-a-share acquisition price, according to the SEC. Scammell reportedly knew his girlfriend's password and had access to her BlackBerry on occasion.

According to the filing, Scammell had never before traded in Marvel securities. But prior to the deal, he allegedly purchased more than $5,400 in options to acquire Marvel stock. His trades were so unusual, the SEC said, that his purchase of the options represented 100% of the market.

After Disney announced it would buy Marvel, the comic book publisher's stock price jumped more than 25%, and Scammell sold his Marvel options for $192,000 -- a 3,000% return in less than a month, the SEC alleges.

"Scammell exploited his romantic relationship for a financial windfall," said Rosalind R. Tyson, director of the SEC's Los Angeles regional office. "His misuse of confidential information gave him an unfair and illegal edge over other traders in the markets."

Scammell's attorney, Miles Ehrlich, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A Disney spokeswoman could not be immediately reached.


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Using 'The First Avenger' to help sell 'Captain America' overseas

CA_1-sheet_Korea_July4[2] May's superhero movie release from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment wasn't called "Thor: The Mystic Avenger." And last year's sequel wasn't "Iron Man 2: The Metal-Clad Avenger."

But this Friday, the two studios are releasing "Captain America: The First Avenger" in the U.S. and Italy and then around the world over the next month.

And that subtitle is very important to the two studios, particularly overseas.

"The use of 'First Avenger' in the title is really wrapping this movie in the bigger Marvel universe," said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount, which is releasing and marketing the film in exchange for 8% of revenues.

Though research showed that the name "Captain America" was seen as a positive or neutral in most foreign countries, Paramount and Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel were concerned a title that simple might give overseas moviegoers the impression that the picture wasn't for them.

Adding "The First Avenger" helps to tie it to past Marvel movies that have been hits overseas -- most notably "Thor," the first from Marvel to gross more internationally than domestically ($266 million vs. $180 million). It also connects "Captain America" to next year's "The Avengers," which teams Marvel superheroes together (a preview for that May 2012 release plays after the "Captain America" credits).

For more , see the story in today's Times on how Paramount is marketing "Captain America: The First Avenger" overseas.

-- Ben Fritz


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Photo: "Captain America: The First Avenger" poster from South Korea. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Viacom reports strong quarterly earnings; Paramount Pictures shows dramatic improvement

Viacom Inc. delivered strong second-quarter results, buoyed by its cable ratings success, including MTV's blockbuster "Jersey Shore," and 38% higher revenue at Paramount Pictures. 

The Melrose Avenue film studio raked in $1.2 billion in revenue, with "Rango" and "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" helping propel worldwide box office of $401 million. Paramount posted an operating profit of $39 million for the second fiscal quarter, compared with an $83-million loss in the year-earlier period. 

"Paramount Pictures delivered strong results across the board," Philippe Dauman, Viacom chief executive, told analysts Thursday during an early-morning conference call.

For example, Paramount's home-entertainment division, fueled by nine DVD releases including "Megamind" and "The Fighter," garnered a 38% increase in revenue to $410 million.  In the year-earlier quarter, the studio released only one new DVD title.  Worldwide box-office revenue was up 50%.  The division also collected $336 million in TV license fees, which was up 30% compared with a year earlier.

Viacom executives told analysts that, although thrilled with the studio's performance, they would search for ways to improve efficiency because filmed entertainment continued to be the company's lowest-margin business. Paramount has thrived, in part, because of its partnerships with Marvel and DreamWorks Animation.  It now wants to stock its pipeline with more pictures from Paramount.  

"We are looking to benefit from our own franchises," Dauman said.

Overall, Viacom's net earnings from continuing operations climbed to $376 million, or 63 cents a share, compared with $255 million a year earlier.  Revenue for the company soared 20% to $3.27 billion.

Cable television networks, including MTV, Nickelodeon and BET, continue to be the company's financial heart.  Second-quarter television revenue of $2 billion was up 11%.  Operating income of $795 million was up 13%.   

Advertising at the cable networks jumped 12% for the quarter.  The company has taken advantage of its broadcast-sized ratings for several of its shows, including MTV's "Jersey Shore," and Nickelodeon's "iCarly" special.  And BET delivered its best ratings quarter ever.

 "Every part of Viacom is in great shape," Dauman said.

-- Meg James

Photo: "Rango." Credit:  Paramount Pictures / Viacom Inc.


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