Who Really Profits from Marvel's Interconnected Universe?

It's well known that Marvel Studios' films and TV shows share a connected universe. The studio isn't the only one that benefits from this, however.

Jun 27, 2014 at 8:12AM

Recently, rumors began circulating that the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron from Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Marvel Studios might feature a crossover with ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Apparently, actor B.J. Britt (who plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Antoine Triplett on the show) was spotted on the set of the film. This isn't necessarily surprising given how much effort the studio has put into making sure that "Agents" is part of the larger Marvel cinematic universe (especially in regard to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its aftermath).

Marvel Studios has created a juggernaut with its interconnected universe, with two of its films landing in the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time (not adjusting for inflation) and each of its last four films have grossed over $600 million in worldwide box office. That's a lot of money, and Disney is obviously reaping the benefits of keeping everything connected with its Marvel properties. It's not the only company that's benefiting, however.

The big big screen
Marvel's films are big-budget spectacles that are intended to provide a major big-screen experience. Because of this, theater companies such as Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE:RGC), the largest theater owner in the U.S., definitely have cause to celebrate when new Marvel releases earn big money. On top of ticket earnings and concession sales for Marvel's blockbusters, Regal has also held special marathon events for the release of Iron Man 3 and The Avengers for $35 per ticket; given the success of these marathons, it will likely offer a similar multi-film marathon for the release of Age of Ultron as well.

Marvel Studio films have also been targeting IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) theaters. Director James Gunn of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy has been overseeing the conversion to IMAX 3D himself, changing aspect ratios for key shots and trying to ensure that the film takes full advantage of everything the IMAX theater experience has to offer. If future Marvel films follow Gunn's lead then it will likely increase the value of IMAX screenings for Marvel films when compared to taking in the film in standard 3D or 2D at a local theater.

The Netflix deal
An even bigger beneficiary might be Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) since it has nabbed an exclusive contract for several upcoming Marvel shows. The first of these shows, "Daredevil," is set to debut next year on the streaming service and recently signed actress Rosario Dawson as part of its growing cast. Much like "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "Daredevil" and the other shows that will lead up to the "Defenders" miniseries will be a part of the interconnected Marvel cinematic universe, even though crossovers between it and the films will likely be limited.

The biggest value for Netflix is the draw that the Marvel universe presents for potential subscribers. While the Marvel shows that premier on the service will eventually be released on disc to better monetize them for Disney, Marvel fans who aren't yet Netflix subscribers may choose to finally subscribe for a streaming plan to gain access to the shows. Other Netflix original content may then help ensure that they become long-term subscribers while waiting for new Marvel content in the coming years.

Those wonderful toys
The Marvel cinematic universe doesn't just sell movie tickets and DVDs; there are toy lines associated with each film that's released. This provides a major benefit to Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS), one of the companies that has a license for Marvel-related products (including movie tie-in action figures). Hasbro has reported multiple times that Marvel products have had a noticeable impact on toy sales, and recently claimed that Marvel was a "strong contributor" to the company's 2% year-over-year growth.

As Disney extended its contract with Hasbro through 2020 last year, it's likely that Marvel toys will continue to drive the Boys segment for the toy company for several more years. Given that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has stated that the studio currently has film plans stretching into 2028, there's a good chance that additional contract extensions may be in Hasbro's future as well.

It's all connected
Marvel Studios has taken great pride in advertising how its various films and other projects are all connected, up to and including its "#itsallconnected" hashtag campaign around the time that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and The Winter Soldier synced up. Marvel's connections go well beyond its film properties, though, and that's not just in reference to the ongoing "Guardians of the Galaxy" comic book or the upcoming "Deathlok" series that even the creators have admitted takes some inspiration from the character in "Agents."

The success of Marvel Studios can be felt across several related industries. So long as the studio's films remain major hits, this success will certainly continue and will likely enjoy further growth.

Gadgets worthy of a superhero
Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out, and some early viewers are claiming that even if it's not as cool as Iron Man's suit, its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early-in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

John Casteele has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Hasbro, Imax, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Hasbro, Imax, Netflix, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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