Hulk Takes Hollywood

Man, was I wrong.

The Incredible Hulk didn't even come close to pulling in $70 million during its opening weekend, as I predicted last week. Nevertheless, as an investor, I love the job that Marvel Entertainment (NYSE: MVL  ) did.

Headlines across the country this morning read of how Hulk "smashed" the box office and pummeled expectations, with a $54.5 million gross here in the U.S. and $31 million overseas.

And fanboys are still buzzing about the film. At film database RottenTomatoes.com, the broader community still gives the film a sparkling 87% rating. Top critics -- those whose job it is to rate films -- aren't as forgiving: Only 67% of them approve of the Hulkster's reintroduction. The good news? That's far better than the 53% rating they give director Ang Lee's try from 2003.

But can the Hulk reach at least $150 million in domestic grosses before he's done? I think so. Here's why:

Film

Opening Weekend As a % of Total

Community Rating at RottenTomates.com

Iron Man

33.2%

93%

Spider-Man

28.4%

91%

Spider-Man 2

23.6%

91%

X-Men

34.6%

90%

Blade

24.4%

80%

Fantastic Four

36.2%

49%

Blade: Trinity

30.6%

45%

Sources: Box Office Mojo, RottenTomatoes.com.

Notice that Marvel's top-rated films have some of the strongest legs. Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, for example, attribute less than 30% of their domestic gross to opening-weekend success. Top earners from Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Pixar have similar or better ratios, as do most of the films in Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Batman franchise.

Fortunately, The Incredible Hulk needn't leap that far. Were the opening weekend certain to account for no more than 36.3% of its total, $150 million in domestic gross would be the result.

We'll have a better feel for whether that's possible after next weekend. If, like Iron Man before it, The Incredible Hulk can hold more than 50% of its audience volume from the open, it'll show that the film has the staying power to make fans and investors alike green -- with cash.

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Fool contributor and Rule Breakers writer Tim Beyers had positions in Marvel shares and LEAP options at the time of publication. See Tim's portfolio and his latest blog entry. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy makes other disclosure policies green with envy.


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