3 Things Investors Should Watch for at Comic-Con

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg touched on a truism when they advised fans in a blog post to be on the lookout for comics hiding "among all the movie booths" at this week's San Diego Comic-Con. Hollywood loves comic books.

No superpower greater than cash
Studios have good reason to fawn. Here's a look at the top 10 all-time U.S. box office performances, figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

Rank

Film

Studio

Gross

Year

1.

Avatar

Twentieth Century Fox

$749,685,805

2009

2.

Titanic

Paramount

$600,788,188

1997

3.

The Dark Knight

Warner Bros.

$533,345,358

2008

4.

Star Wars

Twentieth Century Fox

$460,998,007

1977

5.

Shrek 2

DreamWorks

$441,226,247

2004

6.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Universal Pictures

$435,110,554

1982

7.

Star Wars: Episode I

Twentieth Century Fox

$431,088,301

1999

8.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Buena Vista Pictures

$423,315,812

2006

9.

Spider-Man

Sony

$403,706,375

2002

10.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Paramount/DreamWorks

$402,111,870

2009

This table ought to tell you two things. First, director James Cameron is, indeed, king of the world. Second, comic books and the related genres of sci-fi and historical adventure offer the best odds for studios to make money at the box office.

Performers know this axiom well. Angelina Jolie, promoting her new action flick, Salt, won't be the only A-list celebrity attending Comic-Con this year.

As investors, we ought to take note. Here are three business stories I'm expecting to hear more about while in San Diego this week.

1. How The House of Mouse manages its movie properties
Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) is doing everything it can to appeal to preteen and teen boys. This December's Tron: Legacy looks built to attract precisely this demographic: Boy meets video game, boy fights video game characters.

Marvel Studios is also part of the formula. Superheroes and superhero movies add the testosterone that Mickey, Donald, and Disney princesses never could. At Comic-Con, Marvel is expected to show off Thor, due in theaters next May, and could tease Captain America, due next July.

But the real money for these and similar properties is in licensing. I'd like to hear how Disney executives plan to take the formula that works for Hannah Montana and Camp Rock and apply it to Ant-Man, Dr. Strange, and other second-tier Marvel characters.

2. DC Entertainment's big plans
DC Comics is to Marvel in the comics industry as the Red Sox are to the Yankees in baseball. In recent years, Marvel has been on a roll. At Comic-Con, DC is mounting a comeback that includes a toy partnership with Mattel (NYSE: MAT  ) mirroring Marvel's long-standing toy licensing relationship with Hasbro (NYSE: HAS  ) .

DC is also expected to preview 2011's Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds as the titular superhero whose power is limited only by his imagination. Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Warner Bros. studio is producing and distributing the film.

All this sounds good to me, yet I'd like to see more details about how DC plans to license its properties for profit. I'm also anxious to hear more about the final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy -- how do you follow The Dark Knight?-- and get some color on DC's planned movie slate.

Will DC go dark and broody as Marvel serves up popcorn flicks? Will executives borrow from the geniuses behind HBO's Entourage, and produce a film about Aquaman? Will the freshly redesigned Wonder Woman get a film, and if she does, will Attack of the Show's Olivia Munn star as the Amazon princess? These are important questions, people.

3. The emergence of superheroic video game franchises
From movies about video games to video games about comics, Comic-Con should have a range of options for gamers that read comics. As an investor, I'm interested in the publishers. Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) , Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) , THQ (Nasdaq: THQI  ) , and South Korea's NCSoft will all be attending the event.

With that many publishers, it's virtually assured there will be big announcements involving several superhero and movie franchises. History tells us to pay attention. Activision enjoyed healthy profits as a result of games based on the Spider-Man movies.

That's what I'm looking for. What's on your list? Weigh in using the comments box below.

For more Comic-Con coverage, follow @milehighfool and @TMFStockAdvisor on Twitter. You can also send Tim your ideas via email. He'll be responding to questions and comments all week.

Disney is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Activision Blizzard, Disney, Electronic Arts, and Hasbro are all Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended a synthetic long position for Activision Blizzard. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings. The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard. The Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy doesn't need superpowers to beat up disclosure villains.


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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 July 20, 2010, at 10:56 AM, miteycasey wrote:

    I think the second level characters will produce second level films.

    Take 'the Hulk' for instance. It's had two movies made about it in the last decade and the have combined for gates about the same as their budgets.

    I'd expect about the same from characters like Thor, Aquaman, and Captain America.

    The popular comic book character will still produce big box office gates.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2010, at 11:30 AM, CPACAPitalist wrote:

    Comics, video games, sci-fi, these are all things that us poor nerds have been abused about for decades, but the bottom line is there is a lot of money in it. I expect that the video game companies will continue to eat up market share in the entertainment world. I don't know the numbers but I wouldn't be suprised to find that games generate more revenue in aggregate than movies these days.

    Side note: if Olivia Munn does play wonderwoman I personally know several guys that will probably drop dead just from hearing the news, let alone seeing the movie. lol

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