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Fox Announces Another X-Men Movie. Here's What It Means for Disney.

By Tim Beyers – Dec 8, 2013 at 6:45PM

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Director Bryan Singer takes to Twitter to announce "X-Men: Apocalypse" for 2016.

Walt Disney (DIS 3.36%) owns Marvel, but 21st Century Fox (FOXA) won't stop reminding moviegoers that it has control over a large and important swath of the Marvel Universe.  

On Thursday, X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer took to Twitter to hint at a potential X-Men movie announcement. Fox confirmed the news Friday morning.

X-Men: Apocalypse is due on May 27, 2016, and presumably will feature the Marvel villain Apocalypse, who first appeared in the X-Men comics in the 1980s, when I was still a young collector. Those stories centered on an ancient Egyptian mutant -- i.e., Apocalypse -- who'd been stirred to life by a series of time-shifting events introduced in the X-Men spinoff book, X-Factor.

Whether Singer will choose to explore that plotline is unknown at this point. All we can say for sure is that he'll build on whatever is revealed in the next X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, which hits theaters next year on May 23. Here's what I think the announcement means for Disney:

1. Marvel's profit profile is growing more impressive by the day. We spend a lot of time talking about the numbers Marvel Studios puts up for self-produced films, and for good reason. Both The Avengers and Iron Man 3 earned more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office, resulting in what I suspect was at least $1.8 billion in gross profit. Yet Fox's six-movie X-Men franchise has earned $1.07 billion in U.S. grosses and $2.3 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. We also know from filings in years past that Marvel's licensing deals typically called for a producer fee of between 8% and 10% of the gross. Fox's future X-Men movies could bring Disney hundreds of millions in profits.

2. Disney is never getting the X-Men rights back. On the downside, Fox's ever-expanding X-Men movie slate means Disney and Marvel are unlikely to ever reclaim this franchise. So long as Fox continues to make movies based on the characters, it keeps the license barring some sort of buyout. Investors shouldn't expect (or want) Disney to overbid when the current deal pays so well.

3. Demand for multi-universe crossovers may be coming. Fans, on the other hand, have plenty to groan about. Avengers vs. X-Men as a movie? It won't happen, unless studio executives come to a landmark cross-licensing arrangement that allows for co-producer credits and equitable sharing of movie costs and profits. Sadly, Hollywood doesn't have a great reputation when it comes to striking such fan-friendly deals.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. What do you expect from X-Men: Apocalypse? Do you like Fox's approach with the various X-Men movies? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

James McAvoy plays a younger Charles Xavier in Fox's newest X-Men films. Source: 21st Century Fox.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's Web home and portfolio holdings, or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. We Fools don't 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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