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DC Entertainment makes official its bid to become more like Marvel, its longtime comic-book publishing rival, when Green Lantern hits theaters one week from today. Call it the Hollywood equivalent of an all-in bet -- one that investors aren't sure will pay off.
Shares of DC parent Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) are off more than 7% since early May, when the company beat earnings expectations but failed to lift its full-year earnings forecast. By contrast, earlier results from peers CBS (NYSE: CBS ) and Viacom (NYSE: VIA ) easily beat Wall Street's estimates, Reuters reports.
Recent history may also play a role in the selloff. While Marvel's Thor has been an unqualified success, bringing in $170 million at the U.S. box office and more than $420 million worldwide, X-Men: First Class netted just $55 million during its opening weekend -- the second-lowest debut gate in the history of the X-franchise, according to Box Office Mojo.
Mix in a busy summer film slate that includes Cars 2, The Smurfs, Captain America: The First Avenger, Super 8, and new installments in the Transformers and Harry Potter franchises, and you’ve got legitimate grounds for thinking there’s zero chance that Green Lantern can achieve what Iron Man did in 2008. Yet that's exactly what Time Warner wants and needs now that the Harry Potter series is ending.
It's a high hurdle. Iron Man took in more than $300 million at the U.S. box office and established Marvel as a Big Name in tentpole moviemaking. Fifteen months later, Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) would spend $4 billion to acquire the company. Time Warner is betting that its table of DC superheroes can perform similarly, yet there's little evidence of success beyond hit-and-miss franchises built around Batman and Superman.
A successful debut for Green Lantern would give DC the credibility needed to build franchises around other Justice League names known mostly to comic-book geeks like me. Names like The Flash, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Martian Manhunter, the Atom, and one of my all-time favorites, Green Arrow. What would a successful debut look like? Right now, $60 million seems like all that we investors can hope for.
Yet that may not be good enough. According to The New York Times, Warner has spent close to $300 million producing and marketing Green Lantern. DC and Warner Bros. wouldn't spend that much if they didn't believe Ryan Reynolds' Emerald Knight would prove to be as attractive to this summer's moviegoers as Robert Downey Jr.'s Golden Avenger was in 2008.
Will the ploy pay off? You tell us. Please vote in the poll below, and then leave a comment to tell us what you think of superhero summer. Will it prove profitable for entertainment investors?