Early in The Incredible Hulk, star Edward Norton, in defective Portuguese, tells a co-worker: "Don't make me hungry. You wouldn't like me when I'm ... hungry."

It's well-scripted comic relief, warmly harking back to the late '70s-early '80s TV show starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. (You remember the line: "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.") But it's more than that. Norton's line distills the problem with this Hollywood Hulk: It leaves investors hungry.

Marvel Entertainment's (NYSE:MVL) second self-financed film earned just $21.6 million at the weekend box office, down 61% from $55.4 million during last weekend's opening.

I expected better. Twice. Now it's likely that my last prediction -- that The Incredible Hulk would end its box office run with at least $150 million in domestic receipts -- will fall short. Perhaps short of 2003's Hulk, a critical failure that grossed $132.2 million in the U.S. and $245.4 million worldwide. (This version has so far produced $159.4 million globally.)

There's a chance that the Hulk's so-so debut could lead to a stock sell-off as his celluloid competition stiffens. Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Pixar has Wall-E this week. Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) releases The Dark Knight on July 18.

Help from distributor Universal isn't likely. The General Electric (NYSE:GE) unit has two other comic book adaptations scheduled for release: Wanted, this weekend, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, on July 11. Sony's (NYSE:SNE) Hancock, about an alcoholic, super-powered antihero, is sandwiched between them on July 2.

So we investors shouldn't expect much more from Marvel at the box office. Not, at least, until Punisher: War Zone bows in December. Big numbers aren't likely then, either; screen rights to Marvel's vigilante are licensed to Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF). His first appearance, in 2004, produced $33.8 million domestic.

Even so, there's good news. Together, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man already rank third domestically and fourth globally among Marvel's summer slates since 2002:


Summer Films

Combined Domestic
Gross (in millions)

Combined Worldwide
Gross (in millions)


Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk




Spider-Man 3,
FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer




X-Men: The Last Stand




Fantastic Four




Spider-Man 2




Hulk, X-2: X-Men United







Source: Box Office Mojo.

Expect these rankings to improve and for profits -- Big Profits -- to follow.

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