Marvel Entertainment had an overall strong first quarter, although results in its publishing segment fell in the period ended March 31. Revenue in the segment declined 2.6%, to $25.8 million, which the company attributed to lower advertising revenue that was only partially offset by modest improvement in the mass market channel and higher prices. Operating income declined 29% due to lower ad sales and $1 million in investment in its digital media operations. Marvel said it expects publishing sales to improve in the second half of 2009, and is still targeting operating margins in the publishing group of between 31% and 35%; margin in the first quarter was 27%.

For the entire company, Marvel enjoyed gains in licensing and production segments with the production unit benefitting from video versions of Iron Man and Incredible Hulk. Over the weekend, X-Men Origins: Wolverine generated worldwide box office receipts of $158 million; those results will fall in the second quarter and the company raised the low end of its guidance for 2009.