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Moviegoers Might Be Tired of Spider Men and Ape Planets

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ and ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ both had a weak weekend.
By  · Published on July 17th, 2017

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ and ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ both had a weak weekend.

In my update to last week’s box office column, I showed that Spider-Man: Homecoming came short in its seven-day comparison to 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man (with adjustments made for inflation). After a few more days, Homecoming has jumped ahead for its 10-day total ($208M), but it had the benefit of a weekend to get there. Meanwhile, the new movie fell 61.4% from its opening ($117M) to its second weekend ($45.2M). That’s a similar drop to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (61.2%) and Spider-Man 3 (61.5%), both of which were disappointments for critics, fans, and general moviegoers alike. It’s also the MCU’s worst second-weekend drop, as pointed out by Scott Mendelson at Forbes.

What’s going on? Is the general audience tired of Spidey? He still has fans, and the Marvel crowd is certainly happy and Marvel Studios is certainly benefiting somewhat on their end from the character’s inclusion in the MCU. But Joe Ticketbuyer doesn’t care. He’s seen the superhero who shoots webs and swings from skyscraper to skyscraper before — and again and again. He doesn’t care that this one is supposed to be better than the last few or that it’s also a very fine high school movie. That’s maybe not the most exciting add-on genre for seekers of big blockbuster entertainment. What about Iron Man? Does he also not draw as well anymore? Homecoming is also the lowest-grossing movie to feature that guy.

Most characters and franchises eventually fall out of favor with moviegoers or dip below their peak grosses. When studios see that first dip, it’s probably best to retire the property or at least give it a rest for a while. No more sequels, no immediate recast reboots, no spin-offs. Unless the money continues to be great overseas. When The Fate of the Furious opened 34.4% lower than Furious 7 in the US this year, Universal could have just walked away and cashed out, especially given the studio was already very lucky with that franchise, its having nearly disappeared before seeing a phenomenal reinvention upturn. Its domestic success may not rise again (unless the idea of the series going to space is a hit), but globally it’s still huge.

Homecoming is also doing well-enough worldwide and had a relatively low budget, so the web-slinger and Sony’s investment in the superhero are safe. But good or not, Spidey needs to promise his audience something really fresh — not just a new villain or new cast or background diversity — for it to really take off. Homecoming opened better than Wonder Woman, yet it won’t come close to reaching a similar total domestic box office gross. That’s because Wonder Woman is something moviegoers haven’t ever gotten before, a great female superhero movie. Everyone had to see it. Nobody feels they have to see Homecoming.

Nobody feels they have to see another Planet of the Apes movie, either, and that’s possibly why War for the Planet of the Apes opened lower, with $56.5M, than the other two movies in its rebooted series (Rise of the Planet of the Apes debuted with $61M and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes debuted with $79.4M, both figures adjusted for inflation). The trilogy peaked with part two, Dawn, perhaps because that one promised even more astonishing performance-capture effects plus a good deal of action-movie spectacle. War offered more of the same as far as effects, superficially anyway, and promised war-movie action, which can be more daunting than thrilling for viewers. It’s a great movie and likely better for having stayed smaller in terms of its scale, but quality doesn’t always draw enough.

Fortunately for the Planet of the Apes franchise, this could be it and everyone would be fine. War closes out a trilogy arc perfectly, and Fox can cash in on this one and walk away. For a while. The thing is, this rebooted incarnation of the franchise has never been gigantic in the US. The difference between the opening of Dawn and War is only 28.5%, and that’s maybe the best installment-to-installment dip in this time of “sequelitis” and “franchise fatigue” that we’ve seen in recent years. Most sequels, including this year’s installments of The Fast and the FuriousPirates of the Caribbean, and Alien, as well as the latest Star Wars, were in the 34-38% drop range from their series’ prior episodes. Worse are Transformers and The Ring, which fell 57.5% and 71.9%, respectively, this year.

Of course, many of those were down even further from their franchise peaks (Pirates was 65.6% and Transformers was 61.1% from their series’ best openers). If we want, we can look at War being down 47.1% from the opening of Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes remake ($107M adjusted). That was a whole other incarnation, but the extent that it disappointed moviegoers probably harmed the recent reboot in a way similar to how Spider-Man 3 hurt Spidey. The difference is that Fox doesn’t need to drag the Planet of the Apes series out further, while Sony depends on Spidey and the extended franchise associated with him.

Even if Homecoming and War are down for their franchises, relative to everything else this year they’re both doing just fine. Homecoming had the third best domestic opening of the year and is now about to crack the top five highest domestic grossers of the year. War had the 10th best opening of the year, keeping 2017 with a mostly well-reviewed list. The last time we saw either franchise, in 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were #11 and #12 respectively on the final domestic chart (and #8 and #9 on the worldwide chart). Apes might wind up with a lower number this time around, but Spidey could wind up with a better ranking than even The Amazing Spider-Man (#7 in 2012). Hopefully his next solo outing will be even more of an improvement.

Here’s this weekend’s top ten (estimated):

1. War for the Planet of the Apes: $56.5M
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming: $45.2M
3. Despicable Me 3: $18.9M
4. Baby Driver: $8.8M
5. The Big Sick: $7.6M
6. Wonder Woman: $6.9M
7. Wish Upon: $5.6M
8. Cars 3: $3.2M
9. Transformers: The Last Knight: $2.8M
10. The House: $1.8M

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.