In a conference call with financial analysts Marvel Studios Chairman and CEO, Avi Arad did not attempt to disguise his pleasure at the prospect of recovering the film rights to the Hulk from Universal.  In its licensing agreements with Hollywood studios Marvel has performance dates that must be met or the property reverts to Marvel.  When it became apparent that Universal would have trouble making the date for the start of principal photography on a sequel to the Hulk, Marvel was able to fashion a deal which gave Marvel the rights to make a Hulk film, but grants Universal the right to distribute the Hulk sequel.  This means that the Hulk film will be made outside the Paramount-distributed Marvel Studios deal (see 'Marvel to Produce Its Own Movies'), but Marvel should not have much trouble arranging the financing and will retain the lion's share of any profits (and all licensing rights) from a Hulk sequel.


Although Marvel will have three animated features from Lions Gate going direct-to-DVD in 2006, there will be only one major Marvel-based theatrical film, Fox's X-Men 3, which opens on May 26th.  In 2007 however, there will be three major Marvel-based films starting with Sony's Ghost Rider over the Presidents' Day weekend, Fox's Spider-Man 3 in May, and Fox's Fantastic Four 2 over the July 4th weekend. 


While Marvel's CEO Peter Cuneo has called 2006 'a year of transition for Marvel,' the same could be said for 2007, which will probably be the last year in which the majority of Marvel-based films will be made by the traditional Hollywood studios.  With the return of the Hulk and Iron Man (see 'Marvel Starts Over on Iron Man Film') to the Marvel Studios fold, the only Marvel properties with theatrical potential at other studios are Wolverine (at Fox) and The Punisher 2 (at Lion's Gate).


In a conference call with analysts Arad promised that Marvel Studios would release its first major theatrical film in the summer of 2008, but he declined to say what that film would be.  He likened the process of deciding which property to make first to a horse race -- Marvel Studios is developing a number of projects including Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk 2, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Nick Fury, Cloak & Dagger, The Avengers, etc. -- and will eventually choose the most promising based on which potential movie separates itself from the pack.