Marvel Needs No Bailouts

One look at Marvel's (NYSE: MVL  ) updated movie production schedule is enough to tell you that the company is standing on its own two feet. No need to hang on to partners like News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) 20th Century Fox anymore -- Marvel is fully capable of financing every project it wants to take on, all by itself. And then, Marvel gets to keep all of the profits.

Here's what Marvel's feature film schedule looks like after the company reported spectacular earnings on Tuesday:

Title

Release Date

Production Company

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

May 1, 2009

20th Century Fox

Iron Man 2

May 7, 2010

Marvel

Thor

July 16, 2010

Marvel

Captain America

May 6, 2011

Marvel

The Avengers

July 15, 2011

Marvel

Compare and contrast with the release patterns of Marvel's recent past:

Title

Release Date

Production Company

Domestic Box Office

The Incredible Hulk

June 13, 2008

Marvel

$135 million

Iron Man

May 2, 2008

Marvel

$318 million

Fantastic 4: Silver Surfer

June 15, 2007

20th Century Fox

$132 million

Spider-Man 3

May 4, 2007

Sony Pictures (NYSE: SNE  )

$337 million

Ghost Rider

Feb. 16, 2007

Sony Pictures

$116 million

Sure, Marvel still hands off many less glamorous projects like animated TV series to smaller studios, and Lions Gate (NYSE: LGF  ) seems fond of doing direct-to-DVD superhero movies. And of course, Hasbro (NYSE: HAS  ) makes most of Marvel's branded toys. But the big-ticket items, like the rain in Spain, stay mainly in the plain in-house production studio. I bet Marvel would have been happy to release the Wolverine movie under its own power, too, if it didn't have to honor old development contracts with Fox.

Marvel has $105 million of cash on hand, plus $44 million of restricted cash that is tied to specific development contracts. The company generated $179 million of free cash flow in 2008, carried mostly on Iron Man's broad and heavily armored shoulders. From here on out, I don't expect to see any more co-production deals backing Marvel movies. These guys have proven that what once looked like a risky business was indeed a smart move. Self-financing is the way to go.

Further Foolishness:

Marvel Entertainment and Hasbro are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Marvel, and it may be his favorite stock today. He holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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