A Passive-Aggressive Hulk?

Early in The Incredible Hulk, star Edward Norton, in defective Portuguese, tells a co-worker: "Don't make me hungry. You wouldn't like me when I'm ... hungry."

It's well-scripted comic relief, warmly harking back to the late '70s-early '80s TV show starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. (You remember the line: "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.") But it's more than that. Norton's line distills the problem with this Hollywood Hulk: It leaves investors hungry.

Marvel Entertainment's (NYSE: MVL  ) second self-financed film earned just $21.6 million at the weekend box office, down 61% from $55.4 million during last weekend's opening.

I expected better. Twice. Now it's likely that my last prediction -- that The Incredible Hulk would end its box office run with at least $150 million in domestic receipts -- will fall short. Perhaps short of 2003's Hulk, a critical failure that grossed $132.2 million in the U.S. and $245.4 million worldwide. (This version has so far produced $159.4 million globally.)

There's a chance that the Hulk's so-so debut could lead to a stock sell-off as his celluloid competition stiffens. Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Pixar has Wall-E this week. Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) releases The Dark Knight on July 18.

Help from distributor Universal isn't likely. The General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) unit has two other comic book adaptations scheduled for release: Wanted, this weekend, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, on July 11. Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) Hancock, about an alcoholic, super-powered antihero, is sandwiched between them on July 2.

So we investors shouldn't expect much more from Marvel at the box office. Not, at least, until Punisher: War Zone bows in December. Big numbers aren't likely then, either; screen rights to Marvel's vigilante are licensed to Lions Gate (NYSE: LGF  ) . His first appearance, in 2004, produced $33.8 million domestic.

Even so, there's good news. Together, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man already rank third domestically and fourth globally among Marvel's summer slates since 2002:

Year

Summer Films

Combined Domestic
Gross (in millions)

Combined Worldwide
Gross (in millions)

2008

Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk

$401.3

$713.7

2007

Spider-Man 3,
FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer

$468.4

$1,179.5

2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

$234.4

$459.3

2005

Fantastic Four

$154.7

$330.1

2004

Spider-Man 2

$373.6

$783.8

2003

Hulk, X-2: X-Men United

$347.1

$653.0

2002

Spider-Man

$403.7

$821.7

Source: Box Office Mojo.

Expect these rankings to improve and for profits -- Big Profits -- to follow.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had positions in Marvel shares and LEAP options at the time of publication. He also writes for Rule Breakers. You can 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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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 30, 2008, at 8:44 PM, SkaniMarvin wrote:

    "You call this film a bomb for shareholders, Steven? Only if it doesn't produce at least $150 million in grosses. Expect a public apology from me if it doesn't." That's the quote from Beyers's last "Hulk" blog to which he is alluding. Both posts had Beyers presenting Rotten Tomatoes numbers and box office stats for previous Marvel films in a selective manner to support the argument that Incredible Hulk would be/is a hit. And now we find that he's retreated to a position of lumping IH and Iron man "together," which obscures the fact that IH is one of the worst performing Marvel summer releases to date and has only done about 1/3 the domestic gross of Iron Man. I don't see anything above that approaches a "public apology." Instead, I see Beyers's desperately attempting to pull a Jedi mind trick by lumping IH with Iron Man into a generic "Marvel Summer 2008" category that muddies an otherwise clear picture: Iron Smash, Hulk crash.

  • Report this Comment On July 09, 2008, at 10:33 AM, peterwisdom wrote:

    Beyers seems to be more concerned with his own investments in Marvel than with an unbiased look at the immediate prospects for the company- The lack of any blockbuster films for the next 12 months along with the momentum that the Stan Lee Media case for 50% of Stan Lee's characters' profits will build in the media by exposing serious misconduct by Marvel's major shareholder and Chairman, Perlmutter will force the stock to retrace its gains. The latest "faux pax" was by the "spokesman" flack who stated categorically that Stan lee never claimed ownership of his characters because he always recognized them as "work for hire" - but its this very fact, that Stan did claim ownershiop of his cocreators' rights that forced Marvel to secretly give Stan the contract that Marevl recently paid him a rumored (it was sealed by the Court) $14 million. That spells 10(b)5 trouble for Marvel and shareholder class actions as the stock tanks

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