Deadline Hollywood is doing a retrospective where they look back at 2014’s Top 20 blockbusters while also ranking and analyzing them from a money perspective. Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes it towards the bottom of the list at number 18.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve explained this on the podcast or here on the main page. Deadline does a pretty decent job of it though they don’t get into the part about why Sony wanted – no, needed – to make a billion dollars. From Deadline (emphasis mine):
THE FILM: Another big-budget effort that was designed to gross a billion dollars, and didn’t. The 3D film sure opened huge — a $91.6 million opening weekend when it bowed May 2 — and yet Sony is again overhauling the Spidey franchise, for the third time. How did the movie really do?
THE BOX SCORE: Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Some say that this has to be the most maligned movie ever that turned in a worldwide gross of $708.98 million, including $94.4 million of that from China. But tell-tale signs of franchise fatigue are evident. Consider how the Spidey numbers have descended. The original Sam Raimi movie grossed $821.7 million worldwide, including $403.7M domestic and $418M foreign. The sequel did $783.8M worldwide, $373.6M domestic, $410.2M foreign and the third one jumped to $890.87M worldwide, with $336.5M domestic and $554.3M foreign. Then, Raimi decided no more and (500) Days Of Summer helmer Marc Webb took over, with a compressed amount of time to work up a new version before the rights clock ran out and the franchise would have reverted to Marvel at Disney; Andrew Garfield inherited the Spidey suit from Tobey Maguire and Emma Stone took over female lead. Their first film had a worldwide gross of $757.9M, with $262M domestic and $495.9M foreign. Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s $708.98M worldwide fell short of that, and its $202.85M domestic was off and the $506M foreign was good but that enjoyed a boost from a burgeoning marketplace in China. The biggest problem, according to our data, is that the movie cost too darned much at $255M. That left Sony Pictures with a $70.38 million net, or a 1.12 cash-on-cash return, and 18th place in the 2014 rankings.
Marvel’s The Avengers had a $200 million budget. Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a $170 million budget. Iron Man 3 had a $200 million budget. All three of those films were far, far more epic in scope than ASM2, which was just telling a story about Electro, Peter’s parents and the Harry Goblin. No alien invasions, no super teams, no massive intelligence organization being infiltrated by another and threatening the world with superweapons, no armies of flying armored suits. Avengers, Cap 2, Iron Man 3 – all cost less money to make and brought in more money than ASM2.
Now to the bit Deadline missed. Why did Sony need ASM2 to hit a billion and make a billion (i.e. ‘big boy money’) like The Avengers and Iron Man 3? Because Sony has a money problem and the studio needed those extra millions to help make future Spider-Man films, such as the announced Amazing Spider-Man 3, Sinister Six, Venom – and oh yes, Untitled Aunt May Film. I once pointed out on one of the podcast episodes that Sony could announce Spider-movies all the live-long day, but that didn’t mean they were going to be produced. That was proven correct earlier this year, when Sony finally decided to let Disney Marvel & Kevin Feige show them how it’s done.
If Sony had made a billion with the second Marc Webb film (again, which they needed to do) then maybe February’s capitulation to Disney Marvel might not have happened. Sony might have decided it was in a fine spot with the rebooted Spider-films and would have continued on with feeding us poorly written Spider-Man flicks. While the Sony Hacking Scandal was very damaging, it alone would probably not have been enough to make Sony wave the white flag on Spider-Man. At the end of the day it was driven by money, or in Sony’s case, a lack of it.