'Spider-Man 2' Set To Vanquish So-So Reviews

Despite somewhat less-than-marvelous reviews, observers are predicting that “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” will kick off the start of the domestic summer box office season this weekend with a gross in the $100 million range — enough to justify the more than $150 million it will reportedly spend on marketing. 

“It looks like Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker isn’t just battling villains in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ — he’s also facing the worst reviews of any Spider-Man…,” writes Variety’s Andrea Seikaly.  “With a current rating of 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has already fallen far behind its predecessor (which held a 73% rating on the site) as well all three movies in Sam Raimi’s original live action 'Spider-Man' franchise starring Tobey Maguire."

But the Los Angeles Times’ Ryan Faughnder reports that it “is expected to gross at least $95 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada through Sunday, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys,” and if it goes past that number, it will top the $95-million launch of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which thus far leads the pack for 2014. 

“It currently represents 90% of Fandango’s weekend ticket sales,” Deadline Hollywood’s Anita Busch reports, with Fandango chief correspondent Dave Karger observing that the sequel in the series reboot — three movies starring Maguire were released' in 2002, 2004 and 2007 — “is outpacing the buzz of the first one.” Andrew Garfield plays the new, younger — some say “cooler, wittier” — Peter Parker.

Sony has a lot riding on the film, Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, tells USA Today’s Brian Truitt. “Spider-Man and James Bond are Sony's top two franchises right now, so anything less than a global success would be a huge chink in the studio's armor,” Bock feels.

“Studio insiders believe the film could be a big draw among families,” the Hollywood Reporter’s Pamela McClintock reported Wednesday, as it hits 4,324 theaters domestically today. “‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’ has already earned nearly $150 million overseas, where it began rolling out two weeks ago,” she reports.

And it opens in China on Sunday “as the first Hollywood film to end the current blackout period for imported films in Chinese cinemas, a strategy employed by government regulators to help boost local movies,” the Hollywood Reporter’s Clifford Coonan writes.

Writing on Forbes.com, Mark Hughes says he was worried about the reviews he’d been reading but after seeing the flick he “wondered just what the hell movie the negative reviewers had seen, because it sure wasn’t the one I’d just watched.”

Long-term, the outlook “is pretty good,” he writes. “It’s got far more ‘event-status’ feel this time around, it looks (here comes the pun) amazing, and it’s going to get good word of mouth from audiences, which should all help it take the $100 plus/minus opening domestic weekend.” Plus, the 3D quality is superior, which will continue to boost overseas sales, where audiences seem to appreciate the added dimension a bit more than they do here.

It’s no mistake that the movie is opening this weekend, Ray Subers points out in Box Office Mojo. Earlier Spider-Man movies (in 2002 and 2007) set box office records by opening on the first weekend in May. Another conscious choice is that director Marc Webb and the screenwriters have “improved the villain situation significantly: two new ones (Electro, Rhino) and one old favorite (the Green Goblin) are a collective step up from The Lizard,” Subers observes.

In fact, it appears that the pendulum is swinging toward the bad guys.

The franchise is “borrowing a page from the ‘Avengers’ playbook” by “building a bigger big-screen universe for the superhero with spinoffs centering around Spidey’s foes” such as Venom and the Sinister Six, Ethan Sacks writes in the New York Daily News. “Industry insiders love the idea of leading men who are bad to the bone, but aren’t sure if audiences will follow,” he says.

“In many of the genre’s movies, the villains are the most interesting, but that’s because they aren’t on the screen that much — they are mysterious and intriguing,” Rentrak box office analyst tells Sacks. “Whether or not a villain can carry a movie, that’s a big question.”

But evil-doers certainly have a big role to play in the world of buzz generation. Just like box-office records, you set ’em up to knock ’em down.

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