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Saturday, May 22, 2004
No matter how Marvel spokespeople try to spin it, Ike Perlmutter and Avi Arad selling off their stock shortly before the release of Spider-Man 2 should not be seen as an encouraging sign. Here we have the two most powerful people on the company's financial side basically dumping enough stock to cause a 5% drop in the price of Marvel. 12% and 29% of the total stock they owned, respectively.
Now, I will freely admit, I thought the first Spider-Man movie was crap. Poorly acted, scripted and directed, starring a man who couldn't emote if his life depended on it and directed by a man far more suited for movies with low budgets (because when you give him a big budget he invariably ends up making something that looks like it was done on the cheap anyway, so why not just give him less money to work with in the first place). Everything I've seen of the second film leads me to beleive that this second outing will be even worse. And anecdotal evidence suggests that the public is growing tired of super-hero films. I rarely hear positive comments about Daredevil, Hulk or Punisher, the box-office take on Hellboy must have been a little disappointing given how quickly it seemed to disappear from theaters, and it's looking like Catwoman may need to be sold as an ironic comedy if it expects to connect to an audience. And the only people I'm aware of who are really looking forward to Spider-Man 2 are small children and people like this.
But a lot of people have sunk a lot of money into expecting Spider-Man 2 to be a big money-maker. Marvel Comics has been flooding the direct market with comics featuring Doctor Octopus for months, in the hopes of having plenty of Doc Ock themed trade paperbacks in bookstores in time for the film's release. If those books get heavily remaindered or returned, that's going to hurt Marvel. And then there's Free Comic Book Day MkIII. Marvel essentially black-mailed retailers into moving the date back from May in order to co-incide with the originally planned release for SM2. When that date was moved forward it should have been taken as an object lesson in not fixing what ain't broke. I've lost track of the number of parents I've had to tell, "No, sorry, no free comics this May, come back in July." So moving the date has already lost us potential business. If the movie bombs, all those retailers who supported FCBD3 are going to be stuck with a lot of junk stock they planned to move that weekend. And Sony is already annoyed with Marvel over financial matters re: the Spider-Man movies. This sort of move could be seen as a perfect opportunity for them to dig a little deeper into Marvel's financials.
So, at the very least, Perlmutter and Arad owe the other investors a better explanation as to why they're dumping stock than "diversifying their portfolios." Hell, if Martha Stewart can be convicted of stock fraud on the basis of perjured testimoney, what sort of hijinks will ensue if outside forces take a serious look at Ike and Avi's financials?