Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse has pulled in a whoppping $208.6M at the box office globally, well above expectations.
The rights to Marvel characters have been split up between Sony and Marvel Studios for years, with Marvel holding everything but the Spider-Man franchise. This should have put Sony at a disadvantage. What do you do when somebody else has the rights to all the characters, and you have only the one? You just put that one through the copier and make lots. That’s the conceit of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, where The Spot develops the ability to travel the Spider-Verse and potentially threaten all of existence.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse posted an exceptional and $120.5M opening — one which tracking didn’t see coming, but exhibition did in advance ticket sales– making it the best start for a summer tentpole year to date (beating Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s $118.4M) and the third-best opening for a Spider-Man movie (after No Way Home‘s $260.1M and Spider-Man 3‘s $151.1M). Global start here for Spider-Verse is $208.6M, with China delivering $17.3M of that total. It’s especially impressive since the film is 2 hours and 20 minutes in length, making it something of a butt-buster to sit through.
Among all animated pic domestic openings, Spider-Verse is sixth behind Incredibles 2 ($182.6M), Super Mario Bros ($146.3M), Finding Dory ($135M), Frozen 2 ($130.2M) and Toy Story 4 ($120.9M). The Marvel sequel is the best start ever for Sony Animation, they have seriously earned their successs.
The production team, including Phil Lord and Chris Miller, along with directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson, endeavored to pioneer a novel animation technique that would surpass the previous installment, a recipient of the Best Animated Film Oscar. The unique style is sometimes feels like rotoscope, but it combines “traditional” 3d animation with 2d motion graphics. They used the same technique in the previous Spider-Verse film, and to a lesser extent in Mitchells Versus the Machines. The whole effect makes the movie look and feel like a living comic book.
After Super Mario Bros delivered a huge Easter, look out for next year’s holiday, because that’s when part three of this Sony Animation franchise, Beyond The Spider-Verse, hits on March 29.
Sony Gets Smart About Marketing Spider-Man
Sony has the marketing for the new Spider-Man animated feature figured out well in advance. They showed the first 15 minutes of it at CinemaCon in April 2022. The release had been delayed from October 7 of 2022 to this weekend because of the COVID-19 post production logjam.
Sony’s campaign includes assembling a “Spider Society Ambassador Program,” which recruited 200 celebrities, influencers, and fans across the globe into tubthumping the sequel to an audience of 994M. This included such people as Bad Bunny, Guillermo del Toro, Steph Curry, Rihanna, Beyonce, Tiffany Haddish, Priyanka and Nick Jonas.
Three promo partners created animated spots or custom created animated content. That included Burger King, Nike and Hyundai. Partners also spent over $20 million in outdoor media across the globe.
Nike/Jordan Brand took the Jordan Brand and merged its iconic style with Miles Morales. In the film, Miles wears both classic AJ1 shoes and a newly designed AJ1 HI OG “Next Chapter” shoe, which the Jordan Brand released limited editions for purchase. Those sold out within the hour of launch. They also purchased key billboards, including a 3D board in Times Square, and created an outdoor and digital campaign featuring Metro Boomin and his siblings.
There are also tie-ins with Hyundai Motors, featuring a flying version of Hyundai’s concept car “Prophecy” EV. Burger-King created created a Spider-Verse meal featuring a red bun with black seeds, custom packaging, and a Kids Meal program, and the meals make an appearance in the film itself.. They have also transformed six locations around the world into the world of Spider-Verse, including fully re-theming select locations. The red bun launched on May 15 and within the week in the US, all major cities sold out of the bun.
Gaming partners include Fortnight and Free Fire, reaching more than 400 million players per month. Their programs included custom skins of the pic, character inclusion, and clips from the film.
Sony also teamed with Amazon to create a Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Alexa Theme Pack, in which Miles Morales is dropped into the “Alexa-verse.” Once enabled on an Alexa device, the Spider-Verse theme pack featured customized prompts with Spider-Man related responses, visuals, and audio bites from the movie, a 3D Miles Morales avatar, an AR video call Spider-Man mask, and a scan-for-tickets QR function.
Broadcast cross-promos included turning ESPN SportsCenter into “Spider-Center,” as NFL 49er George Kittle and ESPN’s Stan Verrett and Ashley Brew competed over who was the #1 Spider-Man fan.
On Cartoon Network, Spider-Mania took over, as kids amped up to see the pic were donning their Spider-gear, showing off Spider-abilities, etc.
There was an enormous outdoor advertising campaign around the globe, including, but not limited to, dynamic 3D anamorphic large-format digital screens showing Miles and Gwen breaking the plain and traversing through the Spider-Verse:
The sequel’s second trailer at the time of its drop clocked the most for a summer film with 148.6 million views in a 24-hour period, beating Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (116.9 million) and The Flash (81.6 million). It was also the highest-viewed second trailer for all recent Marvel films in a 24-hour period.
The top five Sony Imax openings are all from Spider-Man movies, with Spider-Verse joining Spider-Man: No Way Home, Far From Home, Homecoming and The Amazing Spider-Man.
Spider-Man and Sony Pictures
The Spider-Man intellectual property (IP) rights situation is a complex one that dates back several decades. Here’s a brief overview:
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Marvel Comics, facing financial difficulties, began selling the film rights to some of its characters. Various studios acquired the rights to different characters, but many of these early deals didn’t result in films being made.
In 1985, Cannon Films acquired the rights to Spider-Man. However, they struggled to get a film off the ground, and the rights were eventually transferred to Carolco Pictures. Again, a film failed to materialize, and the rights were in limbo for a while.
In 1999, Sony Pictures Entertainment acquired the film rights to Spider-Man. This was a time when superhero films were not the guaranteed box office successes they are today, and Sony made a bet on Spider-Man, a character with a high level of name recognition and a wealth of stories to draw from.
Sony’s first Spider-Man film, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire, was released in 2002 and was a huge success. This led to two sequels, and later, two films in a rebooted series starring Andrew Garfield.
However, Sony only acquired the rights to Spider-Man and related characters. They did not acquire the rights to other Marvel characters. This is why, for example, Spider-Man could not appear in a Marvel Studios film (which is part of Disney) until a special deal was reached between Sony and Disney in 2015. This deal allowed Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), while Sony retained the rights to produce standalone Spider-Man films.
As for whether Sony ever had more than Spider-Man, the answer is no, at least not in terms of Marvel characters. Sony’s deal with Marvel specifically pertained to Spider-Man and his related characters (like Venom and other characters from Spider-Man’s part of the Marvel universe). Other Marvel characters were, and are, owned by different studios. For example, the X-Men and Fantastic Four were owned by 20th Century Fox (now owned by Disney), and the Avengers characters were retained by Marvel Studios (also now owned by Disney).
The Spider-Man IP rights situation remains complex and has been the subject of much negotiation and discussion, especially as the landscape of superhero films has evolved. But as of now, Sony retains the rights to Spider-Man, while also allowing the character to appear in Disney’s MCU through a unique sharing agreement.