The traditional start of the Summer 2014 movie season kicks off this weekend with [The Amazing Spider-Man 2](movie:508593), which could possibly score the biggest opening weekend so far this year.
Also, almost every film that was hanging on to a few hundred screens has been shunted aside for the film, which is set to open an "amazing" 4,324 theaters, the 10th-most ever.
Toss in that the film will be opening the first weekend of May - where the franchise set all-time opening weekend box-office records with 2002's "Spider-Man" ($114.8 million) and 2007's "Spider-Man 3" ($151.1 million) and you would think Sony must have high expectations, right?
Add to that: the fact that the Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy relationship seems like it will reach an unforgettable moment; that this is fresh adventure with the new cast, instead of another origin story like the last film and that the film's villains - The Rhino, the Green Goblin and especially Jamie Foxx's Electro - seem to be more formidable and a step-up from "Amazing Spider-Man"'s Lizard and you would think the executives at Sony are grinning from ear to ear, right?
On top of that, when you consider that "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" will be playing in 3-D in many of it's locations and on a whopping 353 IMAX screens, neither of which were as prevalent as in 2007 and definitely not 2002, and Sony should be ready to pop the champagne on what's sure to be another record-breaking weekend that will give the franchise new steam, right?
No, no and no.
Though the first weekend in May has been a prime date for a movie to over perform compared to expectations - from "Spider-Man" to "Marvel's The Avengers" to "Iron Man 3", it is possible that the outstanding success of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" in April negated at least some of that scheduling advantage.
Also, while the villains seem somewhat impressive (and Sony hopes they are heading into a "Sinister Six" film, the abundance of villains seems like too many too soon and for some brings back painful memories of "Spider-Man 3" 's Sandman, Green Goblin and Venom.
Additionally, "The Amazing Spider-Man" benefitted from 3-D and IMAX in 2012 - and that still didn't stop it's domestic box-office from declining from it's predecessor. To be fair, "The Amazing Spider-Man" WAS the #7 film of 2012 box-office-wise. So it's not like it was a disaster. I mean, most films would kill for the "problem" of "only" earning $262 million domestically.
But Spider-Man used to be THE franchise. One of it's films was never supposed to have it's box-office take pale to that of "Marvel's The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises". More importantly, it was not supposed to ever be in such dramatic decline so quickly - in comparison to it's own previous offerings.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" not only was the first Spidey film to not generate over $300 million at the domestic box-office, it's $262 million domestic take is less than half-that of 2002 "Spider-Man" 's inflation-adjusted take.
In only 10 years, the Spidey film franchise lost more than half it's attendance. Hopes of reversing this are not high for the reasons I've listed and the fact that the last two films were not enthusiastically received.
"Spider-Man 3" disappointed fans with it's plethora of villains and portrayal of them; "The Amazing Spider-Man" received a so-so response due to the fact that many fans did not want a rehash of the character's origin story and did not feel a reboot of the franchise was necessary in the first place.
There's also an increasing sense of franchise fatigue: do moviegoers really want or need a fifth Spider-Man movie in 12 years? To that end, some of the marketing for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" gives off a "been there, done that" vibe. The most recent poster, for example, features the main character, alone, suspended from a building overlooking New York City. Minus a few details that only the most observant fans will notice, it's an image that could easily have been grabbed from any of the previous outings. The main distinguishing characteristic is the tagline "His Greatest Battle Begins," though that would be more effective if said battle was shown in some way.
Making matters worse, the movie appears to be the first Spider-Man outing to get the "Rotten" designation on Rotten Tomatoes (yes, even "Spider-Man 3" was deemed "Fresh"). One of the main reasons cited? An overabundance of characters.
This must have Sony quaking in it's boots. It has already planned a Spidey Cinematic universe, with sequels and spinoffs galore. How will those plans be affected if "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" - despite all the advantages I mentioned - earns even less domestically than it's predecessor?
Sony desperately needs the Spider-Man franchise to succeed and grow.
Besides James Bond, there is not a major franchise Sony has that is growing. (There's a reason they offered "Skyfall" director Sam Mendes the GDP of a Third World country to return.)
For years, visitors to Sony’s Culver City studio lot have been greeted with two giant character murals at the front gates: The left one touts Spider-Man, while on the right, Will Smith chills in his "Men in Black" guise.
The former is still an important franchise to Sony, even moreso because a new "Men in Black" movie is unlikely to come anytime soon, and may be ripe for a reboot years from now. Instead, after a poor showing from franchise wannabe "After Earth" last year, Sony is moving forward on another Smith franchise, "Bad Boys", hiring a writer to script a potential third installment.
Beyond Spider-Man and Will Smith, however, Sony hasn’t got a lot on the franchise front. There are a few comedies that have earned a No. 2, like "Grown Ups" and "21 Jump Street", as well as some animated entries like "Hotel Transylvania", "The Smurfs", and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs", but the studio hasn’t been able to lure Angelina Jolie into making a second "Salt", and though it should have moved ahead with "Bad Teacher 2" as soon as the first one proved itself to be a surprise hit, the studio strip-mined the property for a CBS midseason replacement instead
With all of this in mind, what are "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"'s opening weekend prospects? It's tough to compare it to the last movie, which opened on a Tuesday and earned $137 million through its first six days.
With declining interest in the character lately, it's also unfair to expect it to match "Spider-Man 3"'s $151.1 million debut.
A better comparison may be recent Marvel sequels "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Thor: The Dark World", which opened to $95 million and $85.7 million, respectively. Yes, Spider-Man is a more popular character than those two, but the Spider-Man franchise lacks the excitement that is currently surrounding the "Avengers" series.
An opening in that range—possibly a bit higher, hopefully not lower—is likely for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2". Even if it falls a bit short at the domestic box office, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" will likely make up for it overseas. The movie has already earned over $155 million, and is set to expand in to China, Brazil, France and India this weekend. In particular, look for it to do massive business in China, where the first one earned over $48 million despite opening on the same day as "The Dark Knight Rises". Ultimately, it could wind up near the last movie's $490 million total.