There is something odd that must be tingling the spider senses of Marvel and Sony executives when they look at summer box office. Spider-Man: Homecoming – a film that debuted with the fifth highest July opening of all time – is falling. Fast.
Spider-Man: Homecoming had the second-highest opening for any Spider-Man film, earning more than $117 million. The next weekend it dropped 62 percent – the biggest weekend-to-weekend drop for any Spider-Man movie. In fact, the last two weekends of its opening month have brought in roughly $35 million for the franchise. Compare that to Wonder Woman, which brought in $65 million during the last two weekends of its opening month. (Even Frozen did $43 million during a similar time period).
Admittedly, this is a domestic box office problem. Once the movie opens in China, it is sure to accumulate a worldwide gross that equals its predecessors. What’s really confusing about the domestic box office is that Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Rotten Tomatoes score is above 90 percent for both audiences and critics. So if Spider-Man: Homecoming is so great – and it is – why hasn’t it made more money?
Listen to the full podcast episode where we discuss this here.
The “Super Hero Fatigue” Myth
Let’s get this out of the way first. Analysts will instantly point to the standby theory that fans are getting “super hero fatigue.” To me, this is the least credible theory. As we already pointed out, Wonder Woman, has performed just fine domestically and globally. (Wonder Woman also has the same Rotten Tomatoes score as Spider-Man: Homecoming.) What’s more, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 brought in a higher overall total than the original and a higher gross per theater.
Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t suffering because it is a super hero movie. Even if fans are sick of superheroes, they aren’t sick of spending money on them.
The “Crowded Summer” Theory
This theory has a bit more credibility. The week after Spider-Man: Homecoming was released, War for the Planet of the Apes hit theaters (and claimed the number one spot). Wonder Woman, The Mummy, Transformers: The Last Knight, and Baby Driver all debuted in the month before.
Ticket sales for movie theaters have essentially been flat for about a decade, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from cramming its schedule with movie after movie. The 2018 release schedule will be even more crowded.
Without an expanding audience, there are fewer dollars to spread around to all of the films. Audiences between the ages of 18 and 24 – a prime movie-going demographic – attend an average of 6.5 movies over the course of the year. That’s the most of any age group, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
If you include Spider-Man: Homecoming, Disney alone has already released six movies this year and three more are on the way. Forget about Summer, the box office itself has become overcrowded and even great movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming have fallen through the cracks.
The “Soft Summer” Theory
Ed brought up this theory on the Podcast and initially, I really liked it. Beauty and the Beast, which was released in March, is still the highest grossing movie of the year earning an astonishing $504 million domestically and $1.2 billion worldwide. And Summer 2017 is more than $1 billion behind 2016’s $4.4 billion over summer. To make matters worse, there are virtually no big releases left to fill that gap. If audiences just aren’t going to the movies, Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to suffer.
However, it may be a little premature to declare this as a soft summer for Hollywood. The lack of a tent pole film could actually make lesser movies over perform and potentially make up a lot of ground. In addition, Spider-Man: Homecoming had the second-highest opening for any spider-man film. The soft summer didn’t affect the opening, so why isn’t it having a stronger box office performance?
The “Three Spider-Men” Theory
The simplest explanation is that Marvel fans love Spider-Man, but wider audiences are less enthusiastic. We’ve seen Three different spider-man actors in the last ten years. That’s a lot of spiders.
My hunch is that the most passionate audiences went out to see the movie opening weekend and they loved it. But for casual audiences, it was a harder sell. They probably felt that they had already seen the story. Even with spider powers, that’s a hard obstacle to scale.