By David Mumpower
May 4, 2014
Welcome to our favorite time of the movie calendar - the summer box office season. People went back to the future as everything old was new again. The #1 movie character of the same weekend in 2002 once again dominated the box office, as Spider-Man earned almost twice as much as the rest of the top 10 in combination. Suffice to say this weekend's performance was amazing.
In 2002, Spider-Man became the flag-bearer for the current generation of mega-openers. By earning $114.8 million during the first weekend of May, the Marvel character became the first $100 million opener in box office history. Twelve years later, only 17 other films have reached that milestone. Between that film's landmark debut and this weekend, three other Spider-Man films were released, and only one of them was able to exceed the $100 million barrier. In the interest of fairness, I would note that the two films that did not were both pre-Friday releases, and that does impinge upon a film's ability to sustain momentum during the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend. The point here is simple. Earning $100 million on opening weekend is difficult and should only rarely be used as a gauge for the debut of a new release.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 won this weekend with a debut of $92 million. In addition, it has now earned $277 million from overseas venues, giving it a global take of $369 million after three days of domestic and 17 days of international release. Suffice to say that for all of the arguments about product saturation and eroding quality, consumers still love Spider-Man devoutly.
If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just dominated the weekend box office, why has the buzz about the movie been so predominantly negative? The answer is that the Spider-Man franchise competes against itself as much as it is compared to other mega blockbusters. Movies from the Spider-Man franchise have shattered the opening weekend box office record twice. Due to its illustrious history, a lot of people compare every new title to Spider-Man and Spider-Man 3 in terms of box office and Spider-Man 2 in terms of quality. Let's be realistic. Any movie faced with those expectations will fail. For years, Spider-Man 2 was the obvious selection as the best comic book movie ever made. Spider-Man 3 opened to $151.1 million. It is simply unreasonable to expect a movie to be praised by 96% of Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes while grossing in excess of $150 million on opening weekend.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is more akin to The Bourne Legacy than it is to the Jason Bourne trilogy. Once Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Raimi abandoned plans for Spider-Man 4, the primary selling points for the franchise all vanished save for the obvious one: kids love Spider-Man. The primary-colored web slinger is a high school student by day, hero by night. That is a wonderful concept in theory. In execution, there are only so many interesting tales that can be created without the character growing older. In fact, The Amazing Spider-Man reboot combined strong story elements of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, and it did not tell those stories anywhere near as well. The fact that The Amazing Spider-Man earned $750 million worldwide, the seventh largest total of any 2012 release, is a reflection of the character's popularity as well as the increased emphasis on overseas revenue. Since The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a sequel to an unwelcome reboot that was only marginally tolerated by most consumers, we should view its opening, one that is in the same range as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as extraordinary rather than cause for negativity.