Tuesday morning ain't just a discount store -- it's also when we'll get the web-slinging second-quarter lowdown from Marvel Entertainment (NYSE:MVL). One Fool has donned his best Spandex to get the inside view of what to expect.

What analysts say:

  • Buy, sell, or waffle? Fourteen Wall Street firms cover the company. Four of them have a buy rating on the stock, one wants to sell, and the other nine are holding. In our Motley Fool CAPS database, Marvel's an on-again, off-again four-star stock, based on more than 930 user ratings.
  • Revenue. Management likes to stay attuned to long-term results, and it doesn't offer quarter-level guidance. Wall Street doesn't mind a shorter perspective, of course, and the current consensus points to about $109 million in net revenues. That's 30% better than last year's $84.4 million.
  • Earnings. $0.39 per share would satisfy the average analyst's demands, up from $0.19 a year ago.

What management says:
In the last earnings report, Marvel Chairman Morton Handel told us about a variety of ways in which the company will broaden its earnings base in the coming years. Here's one unexpected tidbit:

Work has also begun on Marvel's first Broadway project, with the development, by our licensee, of a Spider-Man musical led by director Julie Taymor. Music for the project is being created by Bono and The Edge of the rock band U2. Both initiatives will take several years to develop but are expected to support Marvel's core objectives.

What management does:
Here's a snapshot of Marvel's slow-and-steady margin decline from ancient times, including significant Spider-Man 2 contributions. That movie came out in June 2004, but the lucrative DVD release happened a bit later, and it still mattered to the December 2005 and March 2006 quarters on a trailing basis.

The uptick at the end was Nicholas Cage doing better than expected as Ghost Rider, along with strong licensing revenues and publishing results. Some of the merchandising licenses for Spider-Man 3 were accounted for in the last quarter, lowering their contributions to this one.





























All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.

One Fool says:
But there's no doubt that Spidey swings in a whole lot of cash this time anyway. There are the actual movie receipts, always more merchandise, and collateral benefits like a renewed public focus on the Marvel brand, with all the back-catalog purchases that can bring.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer also did fairly well at the box office, so altogether, we should have a very decent report coming up. This is the cash that will set the stage for Marvel's next step in becoming a bona fide movie producer, a la Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF), DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA), or the studio arm of Sony (NYSE:SNE). Next year's Iron Man is the first of Marvel's self-produced superhero flicks, and it should set the tenor for this company for years to come. (Fellow Fool Tim Beyers examines the process of self-producing a film.)

Is Marvel the next Disney (NYSE:DIS) or Viacom (NYSE:VIA-B), still toddling around in short pants and licking lollipops? Only time will tell for sure, but the character library holds plenty of promise. It's just up to management to play its cards right. Spend the money and take the creative risks required to make great films out of Thor, Captain America, or even Ant-Man, and the lifetime fans will come. And they'll bring their kids.

The next generation's Disney? I'm not saying Marvel will be, but it could be.

Swing toward further Foolishness:

Disney, DreamWorks Animation, and Marvel already have one thing in common -- they're all recommendations of our Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter service. Read all about the Gardner brothers' entertainment agglomeration with a free 30-day trial pass.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Disney shareholder, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure prefers to skip the obligatory fight and get right to the team-up.