Disney restructures Marvel distribution deal

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co on Monday said it reached a deal to pay Viacom Inc’s Paramount Studios a minimum of $115 million for the right to distribute two upcoming Marvel films, “Iron Man 3” and “The Avengers,” hoping to more fully capitalize on its acquisition.

Disney first announced its plan to buy Marvel in August 2009 for $4 billion in a deal that left existing distribution of some films with Paramount in place.

A Disney spokesman said the $115 million serves as a minimum guarantee against the distribution fees and that the amount may actually increase based on the box office performance of the films.

“This deal helps to clean up the Disney investment thesis,” said Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce, who believes the deal will reach break even or add to Disney’s earnings in calendar year 2010.

“This is a moderate price to pay to have fuller control and ownership of the Marvel brand,” said Joyce.

Paramount said it will remain the worldwide distributor of upcoming Marvel films “Thor” and “Captain America.”

Joyce expected this deal would boost the consumer product marketing for Disney on these films.

Reporting by Sue Zeidler. Editing by Bernard Orr and Robert MacMillan