News Corp.’s (NASDAQ:NWS) recently independent media arm, 21st Century Fox, is trying to show this movie studio still has superhero muscle, highlighting the upcoming X-Men, Wolverine, and Fantastic Four films due out in the next couple of years at Comic-Con in San Diego, California, this week.
Fox has fallen behind rival Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS), which owns Marvel Entertainment and the rights to Marvel’s creations, in the comic-book movie adaptation game. Disney has seen great success with its Iron Man and Avengers films. Other studios also capitalizing on the superhero trend include Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) Sony Pictures Entertainment with the popular Spider-Man series, and Time Warner Inc.’s (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros. studio with the Batman Dark Knight films.
Fox kicked off the trend as the first studio to capitalize on comic book adaptations. Fox has a 20-year deal with Marvel that began years before it was purchased by Disney and Marvel characters started hitting the big screen, giving the company the rights to characters from the X-Men and Fantastic Four series. Fox’s X-Men films released in 2000 and 2002 garnered commercial and critical success, but the third X-Men flick and the two Fantastic Four movies flopped with critics, comic book geeks, and the box office.
Comic book adaptations took the top two box office slots in 2012 and have done so again so far this year, and Fox is determined not to miss out on the trend after several flops. The studio is releasing The Wolverine, based on the X-Men character of the same name, later this month, in addition to another X-Men sequel in summer 2014 as well as a new Fantastic Four movie by 2015.
Fox is banking most on next summer’s X-Men film, X-Men: Days of Future Past. The movie was given a huge $200-million budget and will be heavily promoted at Comic-Con, which hosts a notoriously harsh audience. If Fox plays its cards right and the movie is well received, some are predicting it could compete with The Avengers’s box office take of $1.5 billion.
Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS