Marvel Entertainment Inc's prospects are rising as investors lifted the company's stock on expectations of strong box-office results for its Iron Man film.

Shares rose 70 cents, or 2.37 percent to close at $30.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The film, being released today, has been gaining near unanimous praise from critics who attended pre-release screenings this week. Movie review aggregator listed it one of its best-reviewed movies. The film has been mostly lauded for its writing and the performance of its charismatic star, Robert Downey Jr.

Industry pundit Steve Mason anticipates an opening weekend box-office result of $97 million, with total U.S. gross receipts over the theatrical run of the film rising up to $300 million. Reaching those numbers would certainly guarantee a pair of Iron Man sequels, according to Mason.

The Iron Man release will give Marvel Entertainment's film production division the opportunity to significantly raise the company's revenue. The production is the character-based entertainment and licensing company's first self-produced feature film.

Marvel's previous forays into the movie industry have been through licensing partnerships. The highly successful Spider-Man series of films were produced by Sony, which received the lion's share of profits. Marvel has been receiving relatively smaller royalties.

On the company's independently-produced film development schedule are other projects including the release of 'The Incredible Hulk' in six weeks, starring Edward Norton. Other films include Ant-Man, Captain America, Thor and The Avengers.

On Monday, Marvel is expected to announce its first quarter earnings. Analysts expect earnings per share of 43 cents, compared with 54 cents per share a year earlier.

Marvel predicted at the end of its last quarter that its net income for 2008 would between $100 and $118 million on revenues of $360 million to $400 million. Those figures don't include revenues or expenses related to income from the company's self-produced films.

The company's major divisions are licensing, publishing, toys and film production. In 2008, Marvel expects its licensing bring in $215 million in revenue; publishing, $135 million; and toys $50 million.