During Marvel Enterprises' first ever Analyst Day Webcast, Marvel's Hollywood maestro, Avi Arad, provided the most up-to-date information yet released on Marvel's plans for both the big and small screens. Marvel's successful transformation from a publishing and toy manufacturing company into a licensing powerhouse was made possible only by the enormous success of movies based on its characters, and the company's continued prosperity as a primarily licensing-based entity is more and more dependent on the success of the movies and TV series based on its characters. Before Arad took over Marvel's Hollywood operations, Marvel-based movies were a bad joke, but the success of the movies produced during Arad's Hollywood watch has given Marvel the clout to get the best possible deal out of the studios as well as to attract top talent for Marvel-based movies. During the Webcast Arad referred to the 'use it or lose it' clauses in Marvel's deals with the studios, which has spared potential Marvel productions from banishment to 'developmental hell,' and which allows Marvel to pull back licenses for its characters from studios that don't 'cooperate.' Case in point: Artisan, which spurned a Marvel takeover offer and merged with Lion's Gate, has the Punisher film, which has already finished principal photography, but nothing else from Marvel, which has exercised its 'use it or lose it' clause on other properties optioned by Artisan.
Arad didn't talk too much about Marvel's 2004 releases, though he did note that The Punisher will be rated 'R' and that he feels it will be a franchise ('We are already developing the next one'). He also mentioned that Blade III had the biggest budget in the series and was 'a very good movie.' Arad was also high on Man-Thing and stated that director Brett Leonard would be working on future Marvel screen adaptations.
Marvel-based films for 2005 include Ghost Rider, Iron Man, Elektra, and the Fantastic Four, which has been pushed back from December 2004 to summer 2005. Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil) will direct Nicholas Cage in Ghost Rider with shooting to start in January 2004. Smallville scribes Miles Millar and Alfred Gough are writing the Iron Man film, and Arad is pursuing them hard for additional Marvel movie and TV projects. The Elektra movie will precede Daredevil 2, which will reunite the two characters once again. Licensing has already started to heat up for the 2005 releases -- Activision is creating video games for Iron Man and the Fantastic Four.
The 2006 slate of Marvel-based movies includes X-Men 3, Hulk 2, Namor, Captain America, Nick Fury, and Iron Fist. A major star who always wanted to play Nick Fury is already attached to the production, and Arad is very high on David Self's script for Namor. A writer has been hired for Hulk 2, which Arad jokingly described as Hulk Lite, in contrast to Ang Lee's in-depth psychological study in The Hulk.
Other films in development, which lack a probable release date, include the first Marvel-based comedy, Mort the Dead Teenager; Gargoyle; Werewolf by Night; and Tales of the Zombie.
Marvel dominates the big screen, but what success it has in television comes largely from the animated series based its characters. The MTV Spider-Man series is changing venues 'to where kids expect to see it,' but it will continue along with X-Men Evolution, which has carved out a successful niche on the highly rated Kids WB Saturday morning cartoon block. Arad noted that all of Marvel's big 'tentpole' releases such as the Fantastic Four and Iron Man were being considered for TV animated series. Currently MTV is developing a Blade animated series, and the Hulk is also under development.
Marvel has no live action equivalent of DC's Smallville, which is a huge demographic hit on the WB network, but several Marvel properties are under development as TV series. Both Strikeforce Morituri (now known as '1000 Days') and Brother Voodoo are in development for the Sci-Fi Network, while a live-action Night Thrasher is in the works at UPN.