'Spidey' may spin cash web for Sony
By Josh Fineman
Bloomberg News Service
LOS ANGELES "Spider-Man" may not battle Harry Potter in his new movie, but that's the fight being waged in Hollywood boardrooms.
Sony Corp. is betting more than $100 million that "Spider-Man" will be a blockbuster when it kicks off the summer movie season in the United States and Canada this weekend. Analysts say the wager likely will pay off.
Will "Spider-Man" beat the record $90.3 million reaped by AOL Time Warner Inc.'s "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in its November debut?
"There is the distinct possibility that 'Spider-Man' does beat the 'Harry Potter' " opening, said Raymond Syufy, chief executive officer of closely held Century Theatres, the owner of more than 800 screens in 11 states.
Advance sales for "Spider-Man" are brisk. At online ticket-seller Fandango Inc., "Spider-Man" has accounted for about 99 percent of the company's sales this week, CEO Art Levitt said.
The film cost an estimated $130 million to make, according to analysts, and Sony is counting on it to be the start of a new franchise for Columbia Pictures. Studios like sequels and movies based on familiar characters because there is less risk they'll flop at the box office.
"Spider-Man," being shown in 3,615 theaters, will be going after several records this weekend, including the biggest May opening, analysts said.
Vivendi Universal SA's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" holds the record for May, bringing in $72.1 million during the Memorial Day weekend in 1997.
Vivendi's "The Mummy Returns" debuted in early May last year with $68.1 million in sales. It went on to gross $202 million.
Reviews for the film were generally positive.
New York Times critic A.O. Scott said "the filmmakers have succeeded in rejuvenating the character, while staying faithful to his roots."
Later this year, Sony plans to release the sequels "Men in Black II," "Stuart Little 2" and a new Adam Sandler romantic comedy "Mr. Deeds."