Holy Profit Margins, Batman!
Max is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
When most people think of investing in comics, they think about getting their hands on X-Men No. 1 in mint condition. While $400,000 is no small potatoes for the lucky collector who pulls the original Superman out of her grandfather’s attic, comics on the silver screen are killing at the box office. Could there be solid returns among movie mutants and superheroes? It's certainly a less dusty investment.
Consider this report on The Avengers from the Hollywood Reporter:
[...] Disney and Marvel Studios' tentpole surpassed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 to become the third-biggest title of all time at the worldwide box office with a cumulative tally of $1.331 billion. … Avengers will rest at No. 3. Avatar remains the No. 1 title of all time with a worldwide gross of $2.8 billion, while Titanic is safe at No. 2 ($1.8 billion).
That’s just plain staggering for a movie. And these big-budget/high-margin films seem to have one of two things in common: comic book heroes or James Cameron. Let’s linger on the former.
Avengers also shattered another record domestically on Friday, surpassing The Dark Knight to become the third top grossing film of all time with a cume of $538.1 million. Dark Knight earned $533 million domestically. Internationally, Avengers has now earned $793.2 million, the fifth-best showing of all time.
These numbers reveal an appetite for heroes that may not soon be satisfied, despite a global slump going on four years.
Marvel versus DC
Stan Lee and the gang are currently wallowing in the glory. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) and its Marvel subsidiary are dividing the spoils of The Avengers’ success and investors should be licking their chops as sequels are surely in the works.
DC Comics fans have no reason to hang their heads in shame, though. If Batman: The Dark Knight Rises pulls in anything close to what its 2008 predecessor The Dark Knight did, The DC Comics subsidiary of Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) will be sitting pretty at the board meeting. The Dark Knight Rises is set to hit theaters July 20.
It appears these two titans will be locked in immortal combat for some time. But there are other combatants in this arena.
- NBC Universal is making R.I.P.D. -- a comic by Dark Horse Entertainment (the group that made The Mask and Sin City). NBC Universal is a subsidiary of Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA)
- Columbia-TriStar Pictures - a subsidiary of Sony Pictures - did very well with its 2011 effort The Green Hornet.
- Viacom’s Paramount subsidiary (NASDAQ: VIAB) has also made some of the more successful Marvel offerings like Iron Man and Iron Man 2.
Because all of these movie companies are nested within larger conglomerates, it’s hard to tell whether they are good picks. But investors could do worse than looking for signals of corporate health on the silver screen.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times. People want heroes right now. They’re looking for escape. And they’re looking for a more hyperbolic, more Manichaean world than the one we live in -- a world in which good guys and bad guys are rendered first in black and white, then washed in bright colors. The comics give us a break from the drabness of recession and the up-is-down world of media perceptions, empty promises and revolving-door politics.
I like that some of America’s favorite superheroes are wealthy magnates -- people of achievement and, therefore, of means. We need to look up to the wealthy more than we do. We need to demonize them less.
So who do you like? Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne?
Max Borders is author of the forthcoming Superwealth. Contact him to pre-order a signed copy.
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