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Marvel Studios CEO on "Spider-Man 2," other films

By Mark Rahner

Seattle Times staff reporter

If the '60s were the "Marvel Age" of comics, this is the Marvel Age of movies. We exchanged some word balloons with the man behind it all about "Spider-Man 2" and the spate of coming films based on some of Marvel's most revered characters, Marvel Studios Chairman and CEO Avi Arad.

Q: What's the coolest thing about "Spider-Man 2"?

A: He's holding up this incredible wall at the pier, looking at the girl he loves and saying, "This is heavy." It's a pretty big wall. It's like 20 times the size of Spidey, and it's about to kill him and Mary Jane.

Q: How was Dr. Octopus picked as the new villain?

A: I think we needed the first "Spider-Man" and all its success to move on to Doc Ock. The other thing was that our rule with Spidey is that the villains are attached to Peter Parker in one way or another, like in the books.

Q: Doesn't Doc Ock also marry Peter Parker's Aunt May in the comics?

A: Oh, absolutely. We stayed away from this silly thing. Call it the roommate. But there is a scene when he goes to science camp, the kids pick on him, and Doc Ock says to him, 'Don't let anybody pick on you. You do what you believe.' So he was always a character that Peter revered, and that was a very good connection.

Q: Let's talk about coming Marvel movies. In the "Hulk" sequel, will the green guy at least say "Hulk smash!" this time?

A: Of course. I think at the end of the first movie you see this commitment: "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

And he's coming to terms with who he is. "I've got this curse and I'm going to use it when I need to protect innocent people." And I think in [the sequel] you'll see a man who understands his problem, is trying to solve it, coming to terms with the Bruce side of it, still trying to reject the Hulk, finding a way to reject it, and there are consequences to that, of course. And who knows? Green turns to gray and all hell breaks out.

Q: "The Fantastic Four." You saw the infamous, unreleased 1994 version, right?

A: We bought it to burn it. Some (bootlegs) appeared at comic book conventions just to drive us nuts. The deal was we buy it, we burn the master so we can do it right. It's going into production in August. Tim Story ("Barbershop") is directing. I can't tell you the cast yet. It's any day now.

Q: What about "Doctor Strange" — which should premiere in a state where medical marijuana is legal, because it was such a '60s head comic?

A: I know, isn't it? We are nowhere with that. That's a tough one to write, but we are working on it. We are trying to find the real Jerry Garcia of the writing community.

Q: "The Black Panther." Pretty gutsy of Stan Lee to introduce him in the era of the real Black Panthers.

A: If you know Stan, he's just Mr. Good. And he was naive, he didn't connect this. It wasn't about the social statement.

Q: I never saw him give the black power sign.

A: It's hard to do it with a paw. That's going to be a great movie. We have a great take on it. It's like black Indiana Jones. It can be very interesting.

Q: "Thor"?

A: We've literally just started these discussions. If you're a "Thor" follower you'll really love the movie, because we've found a really fine balance between Earth and Asgard. It's so big you have to look at it as a "Lord of the Rings" kind of thing."

(source: SeattleTimes.com)
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  • 1 month later...

Marvel Character Feature Film Line-Up For 2004

-- Blade: Trinity (New Line Cinema) - December 10, 2004

Marvel Character Feature Film Line-Up For 2005

-- Elektra (New Regency/Fox) - January 15, 2005

-- Fantastic Four (Fox) - July 1, 2005

-- Iron Man (New Line Cinema) - November 2005 or Summer 2006

-- Luke Cage (Sony/Columbia) - TBD

-- Man-Thing (Lions Gate/Fierce) - TBD

Marvel Character Entertainment Projects in Development For 2006 & Beyond

-- The Avengers (Lions Gate) - Slated for Q1 2006 (animated DVD)

-- X-Men 3 (Fox) - May 3, 2006

-- Namor (Universal Pictures) - Summer 2006

-- Ghost Rider (Sony) - Summer 2006

-- Black Widow (Lions Gate) - 2006

-- The Punisher 2 (Lions Gate) - TBD

-- The Hulk 2 (Universal Pictures) - TBD

-- Deathlok(Paramount) - TBD

-- Spider-Man 3 (Sony/Columbia) - May 4, 2007

-- Dr. Strange (Dimension) - TBD

-- Iron Fist (Lions Gate) - TBD

-- Silver Surfer (Fox) - TBD

-- Ant-Man - TBD

-- Black Panther - TBD

-- Captain America - TBD

-- Nick Fury - TBD

-- Thor - TBD

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Luke Cage, Man-Thing, Black Widow, Deathlok, Iron Fist, Ant-Man, Black Panther and Thor are going to suck balls. They should have just made an Avengers movie.

Actually, if done correctly, a Black Widow movie could do very well. A sexy, smart, female secret agent in tight black leather. Just think Alias on the big screen.

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Marvel Launches Independent Film Slate

September 5, 2005

Marvel Enterprises, Inc. announced today the completion of a $525 million non-recourse debt facility which will finance Marvel's production of up to ten films based on characters from its famous stable of comic book characters, including Captain America, Nick Fury and The Avengers. Paramount, a unit of Viacom, Inc., will distribute the film slate, with the first theatrical release expected for summer 2008. This transforming arrangement gives Marvel complete creative control, the ability to build a film library and greater profit potential than it has received from films licensed to other studios. To reflect this major expansion of its Hollywood presence, Marvel will change its name to "Marvel Entertainment, Inc."

These film production activities, to be carried out by subsidiaries of Marvel Studios, Inc., will complement existing and future film projects licensed to other studios. Marvel has a strong track record of working closely on Marvel character-based films it has licensed to other studios, such as Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema, Universal Studios, and Lions Gate Entertainment. In 2006, Marvel anticipates the release of Ghost Rider, X-Men III and Punisher II through Sony, Fox and Lions Gate, respectively.

The seven-year, $525 million facility was arranged by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. and consists of $465 million in revolving senior bank debt and $60 million in mezzanine debt. Both S&P and Moody's have given the senior bank debt an investment grade rating. In addition, Ambac Assurance Corporation has insured the senior debt, raising its rating to AAA. MVL Film Finance LLC, a special purpose, bankruptcy-remote subsidiary of Marvel, will be the borrower under the facility. That subsidiary has pledged the theatrical film rights to the ten characters included in the film slate as collateral for the borrowings. The borrowings are non-recourse to Marvel Enterprises, Inc. and its other affiliates.

Avi Arad, Chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios, commented: "The film slate financing enables us to evolve our entertainment operations into film production, an area where we have experienced past success with our partners and which offers significant profit potential for our company. The characters involved are some of the most valuable in the Marvel Universe, and we are excited to launch them as consumer brands via feature film releases under our direction. We look forward to working with Brad Grey and the exceptional team he has put together at Paramount and are confident that this will be a successful venture for us both."

Brad Grey, Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, commented: "Marvel has emerged as one of the strongest, most successful entertainment brands around the globe, with an enviable track record in feature films. We are excited to be working with Marvel on this new business."

"Merrill Lynch is pleased to have worked with Marvel in structuring and arranging this innovative and unique financing," said Michael Blum, head of global structured finance at Merrill Lynch. "Obtaining a vast majority of financing at the AAA rating level backed by the intellectual property value of ten Marvel characters plus the movies created by Avi and his team is at the cutting edge of entertainment structured finance techniques."

Funds under the facility will be used for the production of films. Marvel will receive a gross participation on all revenues from the facility as the producer of each film and will retain all of the film-related merchandising revenues. These merchandising revenues and the gross participation are neither pledged as collateral nor subject to any cash restrictions under the facility. Marvel will also receive all profits, including all revenue streams (including box office receipts, DVD/VHS sales, television, and soundtrack sales) after film costs, distribution fees, marketing, principal repayment, and interest. In addition, Marvel will have the ability to build its own film library through this initiative.

Marvel's distribution agreement with Paramount guarantees distribution for 10 films and encompasses two prime release periods each year - the spring/summer and fall/holiday seasons. Paramount has guaranteed Marvel wide distribution with commensurate advertising and marketing efforts. This is a worldwide arrangement with the exception of Japan, Germany, Australia/New Zealand, Spain and France, which Marvel will sell directly.

The ten Marvel characters in the arrangement are Captain America, The Avengers, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Cloak & Dagger, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack and Shang-Chi. Each film is expected to have a budget of up to $165 million dollars and a rating no more restrictive than PG-13. Although the financing allows for the production of animated films, Marvel currently intends to use the financing to make only live-action films.

Marvel will fund initial development including scripts for each production. Once a film is "green lit" (approved for production), the facility will reimburse Marvel for these costs. Marvel Studios will oversee the slate and has sole green light control. Unreimbursed overhead expenses and any unreimbursed development costs represent Marvel's only direct financial risk. The operating results for the film slate will be consolidated with those of Marvel and separate segment disclosure will be provided in Marvel's periodic financial reporting. However, there are restrictions on the cash generated by the films that will prevent Marvel from withdrawing any profits until after the release of the third film, and then only if financial tests are met. As is consistent with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the costs of each film will be capitalized until theatrical release.

Relativity Media LLC assisted Marvel with the structuring of the financing.

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Ant-Man may not suck as much as one may think.

From IGN Filmforce:

Exclusive: Who Might Direct Ant-Man?

First word on the new Marvel movie.

by Stax

September 7, 2005 - It was recently announced that Marvel Entertainment has secured a $525 million loan package that will allow it to produce 10 films based on its comic book characters, specifically Captain America, the Avengers, Nick Fury, Black Panther, Cloak & Dagger, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack, Shang-Chi and Ant-Man. Paramount will distribute the films, which will carry a price tag somewhere between $50 million-$165 million each.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Marvel chairman and CEO Avi Arad said he officially will begin attaching scriptwriters to all 10 projects beginning Wednesday and that, though he has a wish list, he's unsure which movie will be released first."

IGN FilmForce has learned that British filmmaker Edgar Wright is poised to direct Ant-Man. Wright apparently plans on making Ant-Man a comedy.

Neither Wright's reps nor Marvel responded to our inquiries for comment.

Wright wrote and directed the zombie laffer Shaun of the Dead. He also has been linked with the upcoming projects Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.

In the comics, Ant-Man was Dr. Henry "Hank" Pym; he also fought crime under the pseudonyms of Giant-Man, Goliath and Yellowjacket. As The Marvel Database reminds us, Pym discovered a group of subatomic particles and produced two serums from them, one that could reduce someone or something in size and another to restore them.

Testing the serum on himself, Pym was reduced "to the size of an insect. Pym became entrapped in an anthill and was pursued by the ants within. ... Inspired by his experience in the anthill, Pym undertook a study of ants, and theorized that ants communicate through psionic/electrical waves transmitted through their antennae. After months of work, Pym succeeded in creating his first 'cybernetic helmet,' which would enable him to communicate with ants through transmitting and receiving psionic/electrical waves. Thinking that someday he might want to use the shrinking potion on himself again, Pym also designed a protective costume for himself."

Pym eventually became a costumed crime-fighter, serving with The Avengers and also marrying (and later divorcing) fellow superhero Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp.

Edgar Wright is a really good comedy director, so it could turn out well. I don't have high hopes or anything, though.

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Okay, while I LOVE Shaun of the Dead, I don't see how they can make Ant-Man a comedy and stay true to the comic. I mean, Pym is a drunk wife-beater who constructed the most evil, nigh-indestructible robot on the planet... a robot whose psychotic brainwaves are based on that of its inventor. That's not funny.

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