According to an article in today's Variety, Marvel Enterprises, which earlier this year put in a bid to purchase Hollywood mini-major Artisan Entertainment, is exploring the possibilities of producing its own movies with budgets ranging from $8 million to $50 million.  Marvel's Avi Arad told Variety that Marvel's homemade pics would be 'a sure thing to open,' and 'strong on DVD.'  While the next eight films based on Marvel comic books will all provide Marvel with equity participation in the films' profits, if Marvel could produce its own films it could retain almost all the profits, and end up just paying distribution fees.


Arad made it clear to Variety that he wasn't talking about the 'blockbuster' films based on Marvel's A-list characters, which have benefited greatly from major studio expertise at every level of production and distribution.  Marvel is going to leave the X-Men and Spider-Man to the major studios. Marvel's 'in-house' films would most likely involve second tier properties, but the advent of DVD has made even 'direct-to-video' projects potentially extremely lucrative.  The rise of the American OVA (original video animation), as evidenced by successful releases of well-known franchise characters such as Barbie, G.I. Joe, and Bionicles, has demonstrated the financial potential of DVDs, even without a theatrical release -- and most Marvel properties would probably get a theatrical opening, at least in today's post Spider-Man climate.


Two years ago financing 'in-house' movie production would have been an insurmountable obstacle for the then bankrupt Marvel Enterprises to overcome.  Today, with the success of Marvel-based films such as Spider-Man and the X-Men, it is no longer a problem.  Since Marvel gets much of its revenue from licensing, and licensing revenues tend to balloon as a property receives a theatrical release, it does make sense for Marvel to hasten the exploitation of its library of copyrighted characters.