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A Marvel-ous Year at the Movies

26 Mar, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

If last year was the year of video games on film, this summer will give viewers one comic book hero after another.

Starting with last Friday's opening of Blade II (New Line), Marvel Comics expects to ride a wave of high exposure over a year that's slated to include trips to the big screen for Spider-Man (Sony, May 3), Daredevil (Fox/New Regency, shooting started this week, due March 2003), X-Men II, (Fox, May 2003) and The Incredible Hulk (Universal, June 2003).

The comic book shop is spinning a movie and licensing web bigger than anything Peter Parker could have imagined, starting with an offer of Spider-Man scene previews -- where else? -- on the World Wide Web.

Marvel president and CEO Peter Cuneo is excited about the prospects for licensing, video games and, especially, DVD.

"We are pleased to see that the DVD market is forecast by many observers to grow by at least 20 percent in 2002 and DVD household penetration is also expanding," he said. "DVD is a perfect vehicle for our motion pictures, which are action-packed, filled with special effects and computer generated images, feature state-of-the-art sound and can offer a range of additional material, including outtakes and production footage. Marvel has the potential to share in the success of this media both financially and through its ability to introduce our characters to people around the globe in a variety of languages."

Interactive video games are high on Marvel's list of worlds to conquer, Cuneo said.

"This industry, based on new platforms and technology, is headed for a golden age. Its demographic appeal is widening, and we expect global growth of at least 20 percent in each of the next two years," he said. "Such high visibility projects create global awareness, serve as catalysts for licensing and other opportunities as well as enhance the synergies between all of our operating divisions…Marvel is well positioned to benefit both from [Spider-Man's] success, as well as from a broad array of licensed products and services developed under a 50/50 licensing joint venture with Sony."

Marvel already has licensing deals with Universal Shows for a traveling Marvel Universe stunt show; Buster Brown Shoes; children's apparel manufacturer Haddad, Encore Software for interactive video games; eCard Direct for CD-ROM trading cards, coloring and activity books from Paradise Press, and a smattering of food-related promotions with Burger King, Con Agra and The Dairy Board. And while Marvel signed a promo deal with Burger King. Sony has its own Spider-Man promo deal with CKE restaurants, parent of the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's chains.

On top of that, this year Marvel's toy division is principally focused on toy lines based on The Lord of the Rings and Spider-Man movie franchises as well as the Spectra line of kites. Toy Wishes magazine ranked Spider-man action figures No. 8 on its Top 10 list of most wanted toys for the coming year.

A new company, Rage Wireless, was formed this week based on a deal with Sony to market a Spider-Man mobile entertainment software package with services scheduled to launch in tandem with the movie. "This wireless entertainment and promotions package is expected to increase consumer awareness and marketing and cross-promotional opportunities for the film, as well as positively affect box office receipts and home video and DVD sales," a Rage spokesman said.

"We are tremendously enthused about working with the experienced team at Rage Wireless to deliver great wireless entertainment and promotions for the Spider-Man movie," said Al Ovadia, EVP for Spider-Man Merchandising LP and Sony Pictures Consumer Products. "Rage Wireless has captured the essence of the Spider-Man character and the movie, and has done a terrific job of translating it to fun and engaging wireless content."

Such deals and promotions helped Marvel push its North American comic book market share to 37 percent from 31 percent last year, the company reported.

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