Spider-Man Comes Home to Marvel
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
July 9, 2017
An engrossing box office debate began a couple of years ago. What would happen if one studio systematically destroyed a known property but then handed its caretaking over to a different, more trusted brand? Would movie audiences forgive the property for its prior failings or would they hold a grudge? This weekend, consumers finally settled the issue, as a $175 million production entered the marketplace and promptly dominated the competition.
In the immortal words of U2, Spider-Man enjoyed a sort of homecoming.
Yes, Spider-Man: Homecoming is the number one film in North America this weekend, but that outcome was always a foregone conclusion. What’s important here is the opening weekend total of $117 million. In combination with another $140 million earned overseas, Sony’s already effectively in the black on Spider-Man after a few days of release, not that this was ever a concern.
How strong is this performance? Well, that depends on where you stand on the topics of comic book movie fatigue in general and Spider-Man specifically. On the former topic, 2017 has undeniably been a phenomenal year for comic book movies thus far. Wonder Woman is 92% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes and will be the subject of box office analysis in just a moment. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is 81% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes and currently stands as the number one film of the year. Even if superhero fatigue is a real concern, it hasn’t played out in recent months.
That leaves the discussion about the character in the weekend’s number one movie more about branding. As Tim Briody mentioned yesterday, Spider-Man was the first movie ever to open to $100 million. Its 2002 performance inflation-adjusts to $174.4 million today. Over the past 15 years of mega-openings, 45 other movies have joined Spider-Man in the $100 million openers club, the rarefied air of movie box office.
The latest one is Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is something of a surprise to box office tracking services, most of which pegged the film in the $90 million range. Sony poor-mouthed the film even more, saying that they expected only $80 million over three days. The explanation for these lowball estimates is that Spider-Man has been a dying brand for a while, at least in movie theaters.
After the high point in the franchise, Spider-Man 2, Spidey’s had exactly one good weekend. That was the opening of Spider-Man 3, which became the first film to break $150 million in three days. Its $151.1 million was a dazzling display for 2007 and would still be described as such today. Adjusting for inflation, Spider-Man 3 earned $194.1 million, which would qualify as the fourth biggest opening ever. Basically, the last three paragraphs reflect that Spider-Man was once the most powerful franchise in the industry.
Then, Sony cast Andrew Garfield. Okay, that’s a cheap shot. Tobey Maguire’s jazz hands in Spider-Man 3 led to some horrific word-of-mouth, as the film earned “only” $336 million domestically. That sounds solid on its own until you notice that the movie grossed only $185 million after opening weekend. It…wasn’t well received. Then, Garfield showed up in an ill-conceived reboot attempt only a decade after the original and merely five years after Spider-Man 3. It’s the equivalent of a Twilight reboot debuting next week…and nobody wants that.