There was a burst of energy around the opening of The Amazing Spider-Man, the fourth movie in the series, but it seemed to fade away rather quickly. Fortunately, in movie terms, the film came long after The Avengers, but only two weeks before a major competitor would take away his very profitable Imax theatres and give him a run for his money: The Dark Knight Rises.
While Spider-Man is, of course, a Marvel character, Sony released this movie and Disney released The Avengers, so Marvel was not quite in control.
So I wondered, was Amazing Spider-Man Marvel’s Green Lantern? That would make a great observation on Super-hero movies. Well, it’s not.
By telling viewers this is a reboot, they avoid stating that this is a sequel the fourth in a series. This is not an absolute, but movie producers, who think in terms of money, realize that squeals, generally, take in 66% of what the preceding picture took in. In other words, they made Amazing Spider-Man to be profitable if it took in 66% of Spider-Man III. With a lot of emphasis can be put on just the domestic income, I don’t think the movie studio care about what color their money is so I’ll be discussing worldwide grosses.
I once saw Roger Corman discussing the 66% rule of thumb. He raised his left hand high and said “Carnosaur took in this much” and then he took his right hand and lowered it and said, “And it cost this much!” He lowered his “income” arm and raised his “cost” arm a bit and said, Carnosaur II did this well. Again, He lowered his “income” arm and raised his “cost” arm a bit until they were almost at the same level and said,” Carnosaur III did this well, needless to say, there will not be a Carnosaur IV.”
For some reason, perhaps Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, movie companies have decided that trilogies are the way to go; so many movies are released in “sets.” Or hope to be. Back to the Future, Batman, X-Men, Blade, The Matrix, and the soon to be Avatar, a few others seem to realize that the steam runs out after three movies. Their directors and actors realize that too and don’t plan to stay round longer than that. There may be exceptions, of course. James Bond has had 24 movies and it looks like Iron Man will be carrying two franchises.
Hollywood also discovered that people take out their dislike (and like) of a movie on a sequel. People loved Casino Royale and in great numbers went to see the next Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Well, people didn’t like Quantum that much and the next Bond movie will be affected by that. So this may show that people were not hugely excited about Spider-Man III, but didn’t hate it.
Hollywood splits it money with the movie theatre owners, generally 50/50. So a movie has to take in more than twice its production value to make a profit in the theatres. Of course, the DVD and cable money goes all to the studios, but that amount is usually kept a secret.
The Resident Evil series is a good example on how to make money in Hollywood. These are not, by today’s standards, hugely expensive movies to make. The first one cost $33 million, but took in $102 million. When you add the DVD and cable rights, it did well for a small producer. So there was a sequel. The sequel took in $130 million and cost $45 million, so they did well. The third also did well, but the fourth one hit a home run. It took in nearly $300 million and cost 60 million. Until those numbers go down, Resident Evil will be with us!
But the numbers for the Underworld series, mostly with Kate Beckensale, are good, but it has probably ended its run. The first one made a great profit; it took in $95 million and cost 22 million. Again, since the studio gets half the money, it made about $25 million dollars before the DVDs. The last one took in 160 million, but cost 70 million. So the studio only made $10 million, not enough to risk, probably, for another movie. I should note, however, that some movies have done so well on home video that those sales prompted squeals. I believe Blade got a big push that way.
Before we get to GL, let take a look at the last Marvel Movie sequels, Ghost Rider and X-Men: First Class. The original Ghost Rider movie took in $228,738,393 and cost about $110 million to make. The sequel took in $132,563,930, a bit more than half. But knowing that sequels generally do not draw as well as the original, the budget for the second movie was HALF of the first, so they studio made money on a very bad movie.
X-Men: First Class came very close to the 66% rule. It took in $353,624,124 while X-Men: The Last Stand took in $450,000,000. Knowing the 66% rule, the studio cut the budget for First Class about 25% from the last movie. But the X-men actually had two sequels, the other one being the Wolverine. That movie costs about the same as First Class and took in $20 million more, still close to that 66% rule.
I looked at the worldwide grosses for Green Lantern. It was a movie that cost about $200 million, probably in the same range as The Amazing Spider-Man. However, it took in $219,851,172, with the studio only get half of that. Of course, GL was not a sequel.
Well, Amazing Spider-Man, quietly, has taken in $618,198,265 so far and probably has another ten percent more to go, it is still in release. About 40% of the money came in domestically. Spider-Man III took in $890,871,626. This means of course, That Spider-Man probably did a bit better than the company expected, it took in about 75% of the last movie, up from 66% rule.
GL probably failed because they made a movie strictly for the comic book fans and not for the modern movie goer, who now is the target market for these characters. Marvel has been far more successful at drawing movie goers than DC. So while the grosses for The Amazing Spider-Man dropped, it is still an enormously successful franchise. The producers know that the next movie will probably take in 25% less than this one. That may be reflected in its budget. In fact, the Spider-Man gross has dropped the entire amount that GL took in and is still profitable.
The failure of Green Lantern, The Watchmen, and The Spirit will prevent us from seeing movies about the Flash and probably the Justice League. Wonder Woman failed as a TV show as did Birds of Prey. Marvel has caught the public interest, the same thing, perhaps, they did in the 1960s when they caught up to DC in the comics industry in the 1960s. With the exception of Batman, then and now, DC doesn’t get it.