'Amazing Spider-Man 2:' Six arguments about its box office results

'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' makes a complicated case for superhero franchise's future

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2” notched a solid $92 million when it stormed U.S. theaters over the weekend after a two-week preview abroad. But the numbers don’t easily fall on one side of the ledger.

On the one hand, few movies can reach the $90 million opening mark—if the Marc Webb film opened in 2013 it would have wound up in the year-end top five. On the other hand, the Andrew Garfield-Emma Stone vehicle fell short of the biggest superhero sequels of the past few seasons—including “Iron Man 3’s” massive $174 million a year ago on the same date.

Here, then, are some pro and con arguments for how much box-office life the “Spider-Man” franchise has left.

Argument for:

Sure, some hard-core Sam Raimi fans arched their eyebrows at the idea of a new Spider-Man when it was announced a few years ago. But the $92 million¿¿¿ the movie raked in this weekend, coupled with the $262 million total take for the first "Amazing Spider-Man," shows that there's really no minimum waiting period. The reboot rationale was often about “introducing a movie to a new generation.” But¿¿¿ "Amazing Spider-Man" came just five years after the much-mocked "Spider-Man 3" and still became a solid hit. What the Webb-led series shows is that if you bring a new sensibility and the next generation of actors, you can find an audience all over again, even in the same generation. That bodes well for future films.

Argument against:

“Amazing Spider-Man 2” may have had one of the best U.S. openings of the young year. But it’s significantly down compared with previous “Spider-Man” titles, some of which weren't even in 3-D. In fact, every one of the “Spider-Man” movies has grossed less in the U.S. than the previous edition, starting with the inflation-adjusted $553 million for Raimi’s debut blockbuster in 2002 and dropping off to a franchise-low $268 million for 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Unless it gets a massive boost—and it’s hard to see that with all the competition coming--this film is on track to fall short of the previous film’s box office as well. A discouraging pattern if you’re planning as many as two more pictures, as Sony is.


Yes, but it’s about international. Overseas box office has climbed stratospherically since the about $400 million for the first two films, with a whopping $550 million for “Spider-Man 3” and a still-strong $490 million for “The Amazing Spider-Man.” This film has already taken in $277 million abroad and is on pace to exceed $500 million. Movies of this size are increasingly about the overseas market, and that’s where the effort and money is spent. Sony is more than meeting expectations there.


Foreign box office is obviously a bigger part of the pie for everyone these days. But first, it’s not clear that this could reach $500 million overseas, and thus $750 million in total. And even if it does, that may not be as great a feat as it sounds. Sequels tend to do more internationally just as a matter of course due to expanding awareness and territories (and growing movie-theater and Hollywood penetration) — just look at how “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” saw a more than 50% jump abroad over the original. Plus, as much as Hollywood is becoming an export business, you still can’t have too much of a trade deficit. Look at the last “Die Hard” movie, which made nearly 80% of its global $300 million abroad and just a paltry $67 million in the U.S. You don’t see a rush to make a lot of new “Die Hard” movies.


No matter how you parse the numbers or do the comps, there’s still a huge audience for Spider-Man. Plus sometimes it takes a few films for a franchise, even a rebooted one, to get its legs. This movie is stronger than “Amazing Spider-Man” in many ways. Webb acknowledges he was learning the effects side of things on the first film, and the education paid off here. The third film [slated for 2016] could be even bigger and better.


Maybe, but the third movie in a superhero trilogy tends to be the weakest creatively—look at “Spider-Man 3,” or even “The Dark Knight Rises.” Also, one thing that gets lost in the box-office debate is cost. There are reports that this film well exceeded $250 million. And that’s just on the production side; the marketing campaign, with a Super Bowl ad and the U.S.Postal Service cross-promotion and all the other bells and whistles, was also really big. When you look ahead, that's concerning and may require an adjustment. You can’t keep spending more to take in the same or less.


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