Marvel confirms Branagh directing Thor, Iron Man 2 filming start

Marvel held their fourth quarter/year-end earnings call this morning, where they discussed their financial performance for 2008 and gave a couple of updates for their upcoming film slate.

As far as movies go, they set a release date for Thor and said Iron Man 2 would start filming soon:

  • Kenneth Branagh is set to direct Marvel Studios’ Thor, which Paramount Pictures will distribute worldwide. The film will come to theaters domestically on July 16, 2010.
  • Iron Man 2 will begin principal photography in early April. The film features a returning Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as Don Cheadle, who replaces Terrence Howard as James Rhodey. The film's directed by Jon Favreau.

Performance wise, Marvel Entertainment overall had a damn good 2008:

  • Earnings for 2008 grew 47 percent to $205.5 million, or $2.61 per share, compared with $139.8 million, or $1.70 per share, in 2007. Analysts expected a profit of $2.55 per share. They attributed the rise to the box office performances of Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk, and their overall strategy to produce their own feature films.
  • For the fourth quarter, the company reported a profit of $63 million, or 80 cents per share, compared with $27.6 million, or 35 cents per share, a year earlier. They attributed the increase to DVD sales of Iron Man.

While there's much to be proud of in terms of their box office success, how did they do on the publishing side? Jim Milliot at Publisher's Weekly reports that publishing was virtually flat vs. 2007:

Marvel’s publishing division finished 2008 with sales of $125.4 million, virtually flat with 2007 when revenue was $125.7 million. Operating profit slipped to $47.3 million from $53.5 million, which the company said was primarily due to ongoing investments in digital initiatives. Unlike most traditional book publishers, Marvel did well at the end of the year with fourth quarter sales up 9%, to $33.1 million and earnings rising to $13 million from $12.3 million, which the company said benefitted from higher profile releases.

Milliot also notes that Marvel expects a decline in revenue in 2009, as it will be difficult to follow the stellar box office of Iron Man.

The full press release from Marvel can be found here.

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