Get ready, all you superhero investors out there who own a stake in Marvel Enterprises (NYSE: MVL ) . This is your weekend, because the long-anticipated Elektra film will be bringing its concentrated package of fun and action into theaters everywhere.
And I have to say, it is my weekend as well, since I initiated a position in Marvel back in December. I meant to get into the stock a lot earlier but never got around to it because of other investment obligations. But I'm happy to say that I'm now on board what I believe to be an excellent long-term play.
By now, all of you probably know why Marvel might be attractive to investors, but let me just give a brief explanation. As many Fool writers have pointed out, it's all about the pristine business model Marvel has designed. Essentially, the company exploits its characters -- of which there are thousands, such as Spider-Man and his major nemesis the Green Goblin, as well as Daredevil and the Fantastic Four -- with many licensing deals, thus allowing it to use relatively small portions of capital to generate lucrative streams of cash flow. There are other segments, such as comic-book publishing (obviously) and toy distribution. It's the licensing aspect that is most appealing, since it extracts value from the significant brand equity of Marvel's various characters.
For those who want exposure to the show business industry, buying into a company like Marvel represents a purer play than, say, a Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) or a Disney (NYSE: DIS ) . These are large media conglomerates that won't be as affected by a single film (unless, of course, a single hit/miss film drives the prospects of a whole slate, in which case it might affect the company and its stock a bit more than one would expect).
For instance, Brian Gorman recently wrote about the upcoming extension of the Superman film franchise -- if the film is a hit, Time Warner certainly won't thumb its corporate nose at the profits, but it probably won't send the stock to the heavens in and of itself, as his analysis pointed out. Fox (NYSE: FOX ) is the distributor of Elektra; once again, shareholders of Fox will be happy about the monies derived from the film's exhibition, but Marvel shareholders should really have something to crow about. (This scenario is somewhat academic these days, since Fox is going to be swallowed up by its News Corp. parent in due time.) Other companies that are affected by single films include Pixar (Nasdaq: PIXR ) and DreamWorks Animation (NYSE: DWA ) .
Lest you think this is a shameless advertisement for my stock, let me point out that there are definitely risks to owning Marvel, the biggest being that its stockpile of characters could decline in popularity; there's no existential law on the books that says Spider-Man 3 has to be a hit. Hey, all of the movies based on Marvel's intellectual properties from this point forward could end up being as successful as The Hulk, and no offense to the don't-get-me-angry dude, but such a series of events would make me reconsider my holding.
I don't think that's going to happen, though; personally, I think I made a smart choice. Movie audiences will always use comic-to-screen translations to escape reality for a couple hours here and there -- I'm willing to bet a bit of my capital on that.
I can't predict how Elektra will perform; it's entirely possible that the stock could drop during the first trading session after its debut if poor business ensues. That's fine by me, because I know there are many subsequent pitches to come; some will certainly go nowhere, but there will definitely be more than a few that hit a grand slam.
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If you're a shareholder of Marvel Enterprises, you've got to be musing right about now on how well Elektra will do this weekend. Let us know what you think by posting down some heroic thoughts on the Marvel discussion board.
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney and Marvel Enterprises.