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Marvel's Elektra Outage

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
January 18, 2005

After watching the critically dissed Elektra tank at the box office over the weekend -- it came in an embarrassingly dismal fifth in gross ticket sales behind Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX) bizarre zebra-fueled Racing Stripes -- it's easy to wonder what this means for Marvel Enterprises (NYSE: MVL). While it was Fox (NYSE: FOX) that put out the superhero flick, this was yet another character in the massive Marvel vault to be given the feature film treatment and the comic book giant has been there to grab a piece of the action every single time.

However, we should all know by now that Marvel is ultimately at the mercy of the movie studios. Winners like Spider-Man, X-Men, and the original Trinity -- as well as more disappointing multiplex performers like Hulk and Elektra -- feed off the company's characters and storylines, but it is ultimately the studio's handiwork that separates the blockbusters from the turkeys.

So what about Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Marvel? Well, it's still got the highly anticipated Fantastic Four movie coming out in July. Sony (NYSE: SNE) is already working on the third installment in the Spider-Man series, due out in May 2007. Yet after an enviable streak in which every Marvel character film opened on top -- even the mediocre ones -- Elektra and last month's Blade: Trinity have missed the mark.

Something that may also be a concern is that with Time Warner now breathing new life into its Superman and Batman franchises, its not as if Marvel has the market cornered when it comes to popular superhero action flicks.

Yet live-action celluloid isn't Marvel's lone tip jar. From merchandise deals to Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI) video games to mobile phone content, Marvel is the fortunate beneficiary of owning hundreds of desirable characters at a time when content is king. While it was the first few whiffs of box office success that led to Marvel's dramatic balance sheet and income statement makeovers, Marvel is bigger than that these days.

So, yes, it was surprising to see Elektra bomb over the weekend. The Marvel engine does rely on a hit film to drive many of its other revenue channels. Yet one body blow doesn't mean the end of a superhero. We all know that too well.

More Marvel-ous takes:

Did you catch Elektra over the weekend? Was it that bad? Is Marvel really at the mercy of a perpetual hit movie? All this and more -- in the Marvel discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz didn't see the movie over the weekend. However, when he went to catch In Good Company on Friday night, Elektra was the only movie sold out at the time. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its stage of defiance.