Superhero State Of The Union: Are These Franchises Too Big To Fail?

By Gabe Toro 2014-04-15 09:27:24discussion comments
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spidey
The Amazing Spider-Man
Franchise History: The Spider-Man films have collected $3.2 billion in theatrical gross for Sony, topping out with the $890 million global take of Spider-Man 3.

Last Time Out: The Amazing Spider-Man broke free from the continuity of the previous films to gross $752 million in a competitive summer. That's a monster result for any sequel, but it was actually the lowest global number for any of the Spidey pictures. That number is complicated not only by a five year gap between Spider-Man entries, but also the first-time addition of 3D and it's accompanying surcharge.

Current Entry: The Amazing Spider-Man had to cope with negative associations to the earlier films, a generic villain in The Lizard, and an unfamiliar collection of acting talent. Now that the new cast has been established, the ceiling is possibly higher this time around. The WB's Batman Begins also launched following a successful-but-derided entry (Batman & Robin), and it's grosses were soft. But follow-up The Dark Knight went supernova, erasing all memories of Bat-nipples and neon yellow. Sony's hoping for a similar effect in loading the new picture with villains, particularly A-List star Jamie Foxx as Electro. And while The Amazing Spider-Man had a mid-summer launch, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is owner of the year's best release date, the first weekend of May. While the film's box office is uncertain, it's guaranteed to register a massive first weekend gross.

Long-Term Prognosis: Sony's expectations for this Spidey are far more ambitious than the plans for the last one: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 leads into a third film already slated for 2016. Sony also has a fourth entry lined up without director Marc Webb, though that might morph into planned spinoff films featuring Spidey villains Venom and The Sinister Six. Directors seem to be aboard both Venom (Alex Kurtzman) and Sinister Six (Drew Goddard), so everyone is waiting on The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

However, if this second installment is soft (think: under $500 million worldwide), it could jeopardize this franchise. If fans respond mildly to the new adventure, the safe bet is that these spinoff films occur sooner rather than later, giving Spider-Man a brief respite from the limelight while still keeping him in circulation. Scuttling the pictures, or moving back release dates, doesn't seem to be a part of Sony's agenda at all: after all, they want a Spider-Man movie every year, whether audiences do or not.

Trending Down: The numbers suggest The Amazing Spider-Man was ultimately not nearly as beloved as those earlier films. The last movie is perceived to have been a smash hit simply because of the audience's residual love of the character, and now that they've gotten acclimated to the new series, the second film isn't tracking all that high for a superhero film. There are four films depending on the success of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but it's not entirely clear the studio focused their efforts on this film, which has had a cacophonous ad campaign that obscures a story (and the central Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy romance) in favor of context-less action. The May release suggests the big opening will be there. Beyond that, we'll see if word-of-mouth distinguishes this from the other films.
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