Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive - about spiders and box-office receipts.OK, not deceive, really. Spider-Man did, in fact, break records its opening weekend and continues to set new ones every day. To paraphrase Charlotte's declaration about Wilbur, the message on the web is "some movie.
But the spider's bite may not be all that it seems.
The publicity boost for a record-setting movie is enormous. It gets everyone's attention, and, if it racks up Spider-Man numbers, can make a movie a seminal event. This quest to be top dog sometimes results in studios being accused of jockeying weekend tallies.
For the past 10 years or so, as the number of multiplexes has grown - and along with it, the studios' efforts to "open
a movie - increasing pressure has been put on distribution and marketing departments to aim for the sky. Sorry, not aim for, hit. One favored way of boosting the first weekend's take is to show a film in as many theaters as possible. Two thousand screens was once considered a large rollout. Today it's only about average. Another effective tactic is to release a movie in both domestic and international markets at the same time to create a worldwide buzz.
Sony employed both measures to full effect with Spider-Man, opening simultaneously in a huge number of screens and territories, including Asia. The result was record-setting, but not necessarily an accurate gauge of how the film will ultimately stand up to the all-time champs. The real test for Spider-Man, pardon the pun, is to see if it has legs.
The domino effect from the film's stratospheric opening was, nevertheless, felt immediately. Several studios hurriedly announced plans to greenlight their own tentpole, high-budget event movies. Pardner, there's gold in them thar Hollywood Hills! The fervor, the desire not to be left out of the $100 million club, swept through the town like a Malibu brush fire.
The money train is leaving the station, boys, better jump on.
Invariably, these "monster opening
movies are of the adolescent comic-book sort, aimed at 10- to 23-year-olds. They tend to be big on visuals and special effects, short on drama, emotion or intelligence. If you're an adult older than, say 35, and prefer movies that don't feature comic-book heroes or musclebound freakazoids, Spider-Man is a sticky wicket.
It has eaten, like a dazed fly in the web, what little morsel of reason the studios had left to make films for mature audiences. The mindset is now full-on blockbuster. So, if your favorite actors are getting a bit long in the tooth, better subscribe to pay cable. You might not see them in the cineplex anytime soon. Unless, of course, they're willing to co-star with prehistoric giants or fire-breathing aliens.
Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer.