During a conference call with market analysts Marvel Entertainment’s CFO Kenneth West confirmed that “During this quarter, we did receive the $5 million advance associated with Spider-Man 4.”  According to West, “That keeps Sony in line with actually releasing this picture within the normal time period.”  As previously noted by ICv2 (see “Sony Targets 2011 for Spidey 4”), Sony is projecting an early May 2011 release date for Spider-Man 4 though the studio does not yet have a final script and has not signed either cast or crew.

One of the analysts raised the same question that ICv2 did in its Spider-Man 4 article, namely, with both Marvel Studio’s Captain America movie and Spidey 4 tentatively set for the same early May weekend in 2011, which studio is going to flinch first in this game of “debut date chicken?”  David Maisel, the head of Marvel Studios, deftly dodged the question: “Well, we always have a lot of options now that we control green light and our destiny with these films. Obviously we can’t respond to hypotheticals and what we would do with various either competitive moves or partner moves, like Sony with Spider-Man. So at this point, I’d just have to say once a move like that happens, we’ll obviously let our response be made publicly but it wouldn’t be constructive to respond to a hypothetical.”

But of course if it comes down to Spider-Man vs. Captain America the outcome is a real no-brainer.  Spider-Man is a proven franchise and Spider-Man licensing, even though it is shared with Sony, is a major component of Marvel’s high margin (82%) licensing sector.  In the most recent quarter licensing sales from Marvel’s Spider-Man joint venture with Sony amounted to $13 million, bringing the total amount of Spider-Man 3 licensing sales recognized by Marvel over the past six quarters to $165 million. 

During the conference call Maisel also made veiled references to potential moves that Marvel Studios might make to improve its movie distribution and financing deals—given the success of Marvel Studios’ first two releases.  Upon direct questioning Maisel said that Iron Man 2, which like the first Iron Man film will be released by Paramount, is the only Marvel Studios’ film with a definite distributor at this time.

The two direct-to-DVD Marvel/Lionsgate animated features for 2009 will be Hulk Vs., which is due to be released in January of 2009 and Thor: Son of Asgard, which is slated for a September 2009 debut.