Spider-Man: Far From Home was a movie that was already the highest grossing film Sony had ever released, but it wasn't done with the box office, as it hit theaters over the Labor Day weekend with a previously deleted scene added back in. This was the second high profile movie to pull this marketing move, and based on the weekend's box office, it was the second time that it worked. Is this going to become the new normal?
Spider-Man: Far From Home made $5.6 million over the four-day weekend. This was only good enough for 10th place on the domestic box office charts, but what's more important was that the number was a 235% increase over what the movie made the previous weekend. The increase was on par with the increase that Avengers: Endgame saw when it made a similar move, re-releasing the movie in theaters with additional content.
In the case of Avengers: Endgame, it seemed like there was a very clear reason for the decision to re-release the movie, bragging rights. The film was incredibly close to breaking Avatar's global box office record, but the movie was running out of steam. The re-release gave the movie the boost it needed to break that record and it's unlikely it would have done so without that assistance.
In the case of Spider-Man: Far From Home, no specific motive is as obvious. The film was already the highest grossing film in the history of Sony so, there was no obvious box office record the movie was going for. The movie simply wanted to get a final box office boost before it hit Blu-ray. The release date of which was "coincidentally" revealed after the re-release weekend.
Clearly, re-releasing movies with new material works, as these two examples have shown. Since they do, one has to wonder if this is something that we're going to continue to see.
If re-releasing a comic book movie works, is there any reason to believe it wouldn't work with a Star Wars movie or a Fast & Furious movie? Ultimately, these are all tentpole films with a lot of fans. The possibility that a re-release might work is certainly there.
While Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home are both Marvel films, they come from different studios. It's possible that Kevin Feige, who co-produced both movies, had a hand in both movies going this route. What's more likely, however, is simply that Sony saw the success that Endgame had, and decided to follow suit. This means that any other studio could very likely do the same.
The other thing that both movies had in common was they had already grossed over $1 billion globally. You don't get to that number these days without a lot of people liking a movie so much that they've already seen it more than once. That's going to be a big part of the calculus on this. If you've already seen a movie twice, getting you to see it a third time is likely going to be much easier, especially if something new is on offer.
The theatrical release industry is changing. With Disney's purchase of 21st Century Fox we simply have fewer major studios than we once did, and those studios are releasing fewer movies. The strategy is to make more money with fewer releases and so every penny that each movie makes is important. Studios are going to look for any way that they can to increase the bottom line of each film.
Adding in footage that has already been shot costs essentially nothing. That money has already been spent, so any additional tickets that get sold are entirely profit.
While Disney may have found success by re-releasing Avengers: Endgame, the studio doesn't appear to be planning to do this with everything that does well at the box office. Aladdin was another of the studio's billion dollar success stories this year. It recently released a song that had been completed, but cut from the film. They could have added it back into the movie and re-released it in theaters but did not. It's only on the Blu-ray.
The more interesting question is just how widespread this strategy could get. For the movies that people already go see more than once, this seems likely to work, but would it also work for other movies as well? Take any movie that you saw once in theaters that you enjoyed, just not enough to buy a second ticket. What would it take to get you to do so?
There's also the potential for this to expand beyond current films. While Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home added their new material before the movie was ever out of theaters, we could just as easily see this done with movies that have been out of theaters for months or years. We're used to getting Director's Cuts of films on Blu-ray, but it looks like, if they hit theaters first, people might pay to watch them.
Of course, if this idea becomes too widespread, it could backfire. Everything about the current theatrical model is front loaded. Studios want to get as many people in the theaters on opening weekend as possible. The vast majority of a movie's business is done in the first few days. Being able to say you're the "#1 Movie in the World" looks great in your commercials. Get people in early, and if they love the movie, they have more time to see the movie multiple times.
If we get to the point where there's an expectation that a movie will get a re-release with new footage a couple of months after the initial release, some segment of the audience might decide to stay home opening weekend and wait for that re-release. This would then defeat the whole purpose of getting people to go back to the theater, so there's a reason studios probably shouldn't jump into doing this too often.
In the end, I would expect that these sorts of re-releases will become more common, but not too common. If done sparingly and with the right titles, the audience is certainly willing to go back to the theater again in large enough numbers to make it worth it.
Of course, if every major studio does this once or twice a year, we could still end up seeing this happen with one movie or another basically every single month. If another studio follows Marvel and Sony, it could be a sign that this is all here to stay.
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