Sunday, May 18, 2014

Comic Book Movie Fatigue seen through the Lens of the Spider-Man films

Here’s The Rest Of That #SuperBowl Spot For THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 Plus Enemies Unite Sizzle Reel
In May 2002, the first Spider-Man series from SONY opened to an impressive114 million for its opening weekend.  The first Spider-Man ended up grossing 403 million domestic, and 418 million in foreign markets. 12 years later the trajectory of this franchise, and the reboot, have put the once most profitable super hero towards to lower end of the spectrum for super hero films.  Does this signal fatigue in a genre or a studio that needs to take stock in the web-slinger.

Let's take a look at the raw data first:

Opening Weekend
Domestic Gross
Foreign Gross
114, million
403.7 million
418 million
Spider-Man 2
88 million
373.5 million
410 million
Spider-Man 3
151.1 million
336.5 million
554.3 million
The Amazing
62 million
262 million
490 million
The Amazing
Spider-Man 2
91 million
172 million
(To date 5/18)
461 million
(To date 5/18)

Many articles have been written about "comic book movie fatigue" but numerous films the Dark Knight franchise was a success, and any film associated with Marvel's The Avengers has only gotten a bump in their sequels.  DC's Man of of Steel performed solidly, but DC, and Warner Brothers is also hoping to get more traction by including Batman, and Wonder Woman in the sequel, with hope of build up to a Justice League film.  Spider-Man is the perfect example of a successful film franchise turned downward.  You can take each series one at a time, or look at them together.  I think doing both matters.

Let's look at the Sam Raimi directed trilogy first.  Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man installment was the highest grossing Spider-Man film domestic, meanwhile the third (and worst) has the dubious honor of having the highest opening weekend, foreign gross, and is the highest grossing of any Spider-Man film.  While Spider-Man 3 has multiple "bests" for the series and its reboot, the opening weekend gross is 45 percent of entire domestic gross, not exactly a crowning jewel, hence no fourth film from Raimi.

If you look at the reboot from Marc Webb, the first film performed adequately, considering it had the lowest opening weekend of any Spider-Man film, 62 million.  The sequel has earned almost 30 million more, but may barely gross 200 million.  In its second and third weekends The Amazing Spider-Man 2 lost about 60 percent (weekend 2), and 50 percent (weekend) based on this trajectory the film may only gross 8 million next weekend, putting it at 180 million, and probably 5 million throughout the week week prior, 185 million.  This will have the poorest box domestic box office for any film in either franchise.

One hard truth of the matter is the importance of the foreign markets, and the role they play in helping boost a franchise.  Let's move away from Spider-Man for a minute and move to the Man of Steel.  Return of Superman and Man of Steel both grossed around the domestically with inflation, in fact if you factor inflation into the mix Return of Superman may come out the winner.  Man of Steel released last year made 377 million in foreign markets, while Return of Superman made 191 in foreign markets. The proof is in the pudding that foreign box office numbers help save films.

On one hand the Spider-Man name is "safe" all five films have performed on equal footing in foreign markets.  One the other hand, SONY has a few things to worry about, Spider-Man is not part of "brand."  The franchise is trying to brand their villains, but can outsourcing films centered around villains work.   I am speaking about SONY's upcoming plans for a Sinister Six film or films potentially.  While I am not sure I want Marvel and Disney to have/own everything.  I think this is the point where we see that this "fatigue" is not entirely real, but more about charting out a path.

Kevin P. Sullivan has it right in his article Amazing Spider-Man: How to Save the Series, while SONY wants to compete, maybe "taking a breath" is a good idea.  Planing spin-offs of a film that has increasingly dropped at the domestic box office, and has not lit foreign markets on fire is risky.  I liked Amazing Spider-Man 2, flaws and all, I think this reboot is much better than the original series.  I know I know Spider-Man 2, was deep, and a good film, but Tobey Maguire was not Peter Parker, and that was not Doc Octopus, sorry.

Spider-Man is a great character and SONY either needs to not put the cart before the horse or figure while using the things that they have, the talented Andrew Garfield, to their advantage.  Comic book movie fatigue has not set in as most think its just that SONY is trying to play this game alone, with no other connections, and today's day in and age film viewers are savvy, hell Amazing Spider-Man 2 did not even have their own ending credits scene, they only showed a clip from the upcoming X-Men film, talk about dumb.  Those end credits scenes are like cat nip to comic movie goers, and removing that from the process, means you may have nothing solid enough planned.  I hope to see Spider-Man continue to show up on my screen, but I challenge SONY to think deeper about this franchise.

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