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Time Warner Inc (TWX), The Walt Disney Company (DIS): How Superheroes Might Save Your Portfolio

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a $116.6 million opening weekend for Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX)’s Man of Steel. The film’s opening a couple of weeks ago broke the record for the largest June opening of all time, unseating The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)‘s Toy Story 3. It was also the second-largest opening for the year, behind The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)’s Iron Man 3 and the $174.1 million it brought in at the beginning of May. Superheroes are hot, and with the right investments, you can make that popularity work for you.

Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX)Movies and comics

Both The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) have major interests in comic book superheroes. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) owns Marvel and Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) owns DC, which together hold 80% of the total market share of the comic book industry. In addition to initiatives to stimulate comic book sales and make long-running titles more accessible to new readers, the companies are actively pursuing new franchises for the big and small screens.

A sequel to Man of Steel is rumored to be on the fast track for development, while sequels to Marvel Studios’ Captain America and Thor are planned for release within the next year. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) also has a sequel to the $1.51 billion-earning The Avengers in the works for 2015, and additional films slated through 2017. Superheroes have made it to TV as well with DC shows like Smallville and Arrow, while Marvel is preparing a TV spin-off from The Avengers called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. So long as the properties remain popular, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) will continue producing films and other products based on these characters.

Disney and Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) aren’t the only media companies making money from superheroes, either. Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures has a stake in the superhero box office as well, producing and distributing comics-inspired films such as the upcoming R.I.P.D and Kick-Ass 2. While Universal Pictures doesn’t have direct ties with comics as Disney and Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) do, it does have access to comic properties from smaller publishers. Universal has worked with Dark Horse Studios, and has also produced or distributed films based on comics by Icon Comics, Oni Press, and others.

This multi-publisher approach has worked well for Universal in the past. The original Kick Ass, for instance, brought in over three times its production budget during its theatrical run, while Hellboy II: The Golden Army nearly doubled its budget. Universal’s films are typically smaller productions than those of Disney or Time Warner, of course, and are often co-produced or only use Universal Pictures as a distributor. While this reduces the amount of the profit that Universal receives from the films, it also significantly reduces the company’s costs.

Other revenues

One major player in the superhero merchandising field is Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS). Holding a license to produce action figures, toys and accessories based on Marvel Comics characters, the company makes products including action figures and role-playing toys such as “Iron Man” masks and smashing “Hulk” gloves. A preschool-aimed toy line, Marvel Superhero Squad, has also proven popular and has produced animated and video game spin-offs.

Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS) has enjoyed significant success with its Marvel partnership. In 2012, the company enjoyed record sales of its Marvel toys due in part to the success of The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man from Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE)’s Columbia Pictures. It expects similar success in 2013 with the release of three films based on Marvel properties and two animated series to support the toy lines. Looking into the future, Hasbro wishes to further grow its partnership with Disney and to build its Marvel lines into a stronger global brand.

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