In the first half of the month, there were many preliminary reports on the upcoming summer movie season. This crucial annual period is usually accompanied by a massive amount of hype as studios vie for the public's money. This summer is proving to be no exception.The runaway hit of the summer thus far is Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man, which has been receiving all kinds of notice for its record-breaking sales.
Its three-day opening weekend grossed a record $114.8 million. It was also the first film to ever reach $200 million in just 10 days. While the movie was expected to do relatively well, it has far exceeded anyone's expectations. It's interesting to note that in the days before it was released, the Los Angeles Times (May 4) suggested that the film "could take in as much as $80 million
during its opening weekend.
Meanwhile, The Philadelphia Inquirer (May 5) appeared even further off the mark, briefly addressing the film as being among "a couple of movies that might even be good.
Of course, the public can be swept up in all of the momentum and buy tickets to a film that's more hype than substance, but most media reports are saying that the film has legs. Several reports attributed its success to its wide-ranging demographic appeal, from teens to adults, males to females.
Although many of the stories acknowledged that it was still too early in the summer movie season (which traditionally doesn't even start until Memorial Day weekend) to declare a winner, there were quite a few reports that were already saying that Spider-Man should be able to fend off the latest Star Wars installment, Attack of the Clones. In an interview on CNN (May 9), one of the most influential movie reviewers around, Harry Knowles of AintitCool.com, stated that he had seen both films and liked Spider-Man better.
There also seemed to be a consensus that Clones would not be able best Spider-Man's opening weekend sales, although only a handful of reports explained that this was largely due to the former film being shown in 20% fewer theaters across the country.
Media coverage appeared to position Clones as not only in competition against Spider-Man, but also against its most immediate predecessor in the Star Wars saga, 1999's lukewarm Phantom Menace. The Los Angeles Times (May 4) reported that part of the film's marketing strategy has been "getting the word out that Clones is a better film than Phantom Menace.
And that's exactly what early reviews have been saying. CNN (May 6) reported enthusiastically, "The buzz on this movie ... is extraordinary."
Several reports discussed movie studios' strategy of using franchise films such as Spider-Man and Clones to boost sales this summer. The Chicago Tribune (May 12) wrote, "Last year's sequel- and remake-heavy summer set a box-office record, so this summer, more than ever, the studios are banking on franchises designed to sell themselves primarily to teen and pre-teen audiences."
The article included a movie producer's explanation on the rationale for using franchise films: "It's like an extension of advertising. They're trying to create brands so that the amount of advertising it will take next time to get the signal through the noise is less."
While movie-goers may debate whether Spider-Man or Clones is the better film, it does appear that studios have found a formula that works. Franchise films are big business and will likely continue to be so.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.