Marvel Gets Direct

Those who doubt the potential for Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Marvel Enterprises (NYSE: MVL  ) sometimes try to paint the firm as a one-trick pony, depending on potential blockbusters like the upcoming summer Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) release Spiderman 2.

Of course, Marvel's real gravy is ladled on via subsequent licensing deals, which is why even minor films like the recent ThePunisher can donate plenty of green to the bottom line once the DVD, clothing, and video-game royalties start flooding in.

This morning, the comic-book turnaround announced an expansion of its tag-team efforts with Lions Gate Entertainment (AMEX: LGF  ) , which put together The Punisher. The two will begin collaborating immediately on direct-to-DVD animated movies, with the first titles due to hit shelves in late 2005.

As Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) and the mega-wealthy Olsen twins know, this is a large and growing market. It can both bring in plenty of money outright and keep Marvel stories fresh in consumers' minds. It may also prove an ideal way to introduce some of the thousands of benchwarmers in the firm's extensive character library. Of course, the challenge lies in making sure that the additional features don't kill future box-office potential by numbing audiences with overexposure or sub-par offerings.

With the current deal, Marvel will provide creative direction for the films and take a cut of the proceeds, while -- as usual -- the other guy shoulders the burden of making the movie. If you're not acquainted with the beauty of this business model, my own arch-foe W.D. Crotty summarizes the numeric goodies here.

Recent insider sales have raised a few eyebrows, including mine. While such moves always deserve scrutiny, it's pretty easy to believe in Marvel's long-term value when deals like this keep adding pieces to the revenue pie.

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Fool contributor Seth Jayson can't get his web thingies to shoot straight, but he still fits into his spandex unitard. He owns shares of Marvel. View his Fool profile here.


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