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The Walt Disney Company (DIS), Time Warner Inc (TWX): “The Avengers” Will Be the Next “Star Wars”

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Don’t look now, but Iron Man 3 broke the $400 million box-office barrier here in the U.S., making it the year’s top grossing film and the fourth biggest comic-book adaptation of all time.

Iron Man 3 has soared at theaters around the globe. Source: Marvel Entertainment.

Can anyone touch The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)‘s Marvel Studios? Man of Steel has proved to be a winner for Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX)‘s DC Entertainment and should close the weekend with about $248 million at the U.S. box office, reports. Audiences seem to like director Zack Snyder’s grittier, more realistic version of Superman.

Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIAB)‘s Paramount Pictures also has two summer hits on its hands. Star Trek Into Darkness recently topped $220 million at the U.S. box office and more than $438 million worldwide. Zombie thriller World War Z, meanwhile, has defied low expectations to earn an estimated $123 million in grosses through its second weekend, Box Office Mojo reports.

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)

All good results, no doubt. But with $1.2 billion already in the can, it’s hard to believe anything can top Iron Man 3 at this point — not even Warner’s robots-vs.-aliens mashup, Pacific Rim. I find it more likely that Marvel’s Avengers franchise will be the second coming of Star Wars, and propel The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) stock to new highs as a result. Think I’m crazy? Check the numbers:

Metrics The Avengers Star Wars
Total worldwide box office $5,011.3 million $4,538.6 million
No. of films in franchise 7 12*
Worldwide per-film average $715.9 million $378.2 million
Domestic average, adjusted for inflation $311.75 million $324.86 million
Top film in franchise (worldwide box office) Marvel’s The Avengers ($1,511.8 million) Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace ($938.6 million)

Source: Box Office Mojo.
*Includes reissued versions of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

Pay close attention to the bold text. On a per-film basis and adjusted for inflation, Marvel’s Avengers features get within spitting distance of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars haul.

To me, that suggests an insatiable demand for Avengers content, and not just at the box office. Fans and investors rejoiced after The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) announced a deal to bring Robert Downey Jr. back for Avengers 2 and 3 as Marvel teases three untitled films for 2016 and 2017. Most expect details at next month’s San Diego Comic-Con, which seems likely to draw at least 130,000 fans.

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