Forecast: Will 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Reach $100 Million?
Thursday Update: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 earned a solid $8.7 million from late Thursday shows. Among recent comic book movies, that's an improvement on Thor: The Dark World ($7.1 million), but off from Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($10.2 million).

This late-night debut suggests that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will wind up roughly on par with expectations this weekend. If it holds like Captain America, it will wind up with $81 million; Thor's pattern, on the other hand, would give it a debut north of $100 million. Odds are that it ends up somewhere in the middle: if The Amazing Spider-Man 2 holds like the last two Summer openers (Iron Man 3, The Avengers) it will earn around $97 million for the three-day weekend.

Forecast: The Summer movie season kicks off this weekend with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which could score the biggest opening yet in 2014.

The sequel to the reboot crawls its way in to 4,324 theaters, which is the one of the widest releases ever. It will be in 3D at many of those locations, and will also be playing on 353 IMAX screens.

The Spider-Man character has had a fantastic run at the box office over the past 12 years. All four movies featuring the webcrawler have earned over $260 million at the domestic box office, over $400 million overseas, and over $750 million worldwide.

Unfortunately, the franchise's best days are likely behind it. Beginning with 2004's Spider-Man 2, each new outing has earned less than the previous one at the domestic box office: the 2012 reboot was off 22 percent to a franchise-low $262 million. If that entry had been well-liked, the series could have stopped the bleeding there. While many appreciated the chemistry between the new leads (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone), though, overall reactions to The Amazing Spider-Man were so-so.

In an attempt to turn things around, there were a few key changes made for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. First, it's improved the villain situation significantly: two new ones (Electro, Rhino) and one old favorite (the Green Goblin) are a collective step up from The Lizard. The franchise is also returning to the first weekend of May, where it previously set opening weekend records in 2002 ($114.8 million) and 2007 ($151.1 million).

Both of these items has drawbacks, though. For some, the plethora of villains brings back painful memories of Spider-Man 3 (Sandman, Green Goblin, Venom). Also, Captain America: The Winter Soldier's impressive performance in April likely negates some of The Amazing Spider-Man 2's scheduling advantage.

There's also an increasing sense of franchise fatigue: do moviegoers really want or need a fifth Spider-Man movie in 12 years? To that end, some of the marketing for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gives off a "been there, done that" vibe. The most recent poster, for example, features the main character, alone, suspended from a building overlooking New York City. Minus a few details that only the most observant fans will notice, it's an image that could easily have been grabbed from any of the previous outings. The main distinguishing characteristic is the tagline "His Greatest Battle Begins," though that would be more effective if said battle was shown in some way.

Making matters worse, the movie appears to be the first Spider-Man outing to get the "Rotten" designation on Rotten Tomatoes (yes, even Spider-Man 3 was deemed "Fresh").

With all of this in mind, what are The Amazing Spider-Man 2's opening weekend prospects? It's tough to compare it to the last movie, which opened on a Tuesday and earned $137 million through its first six days. With declining interest in the character lately, it's also unfair to expect it to match Spider-Man 3's $151.1 million debut.

A better comparison may be recent comic book sequels Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World, which opened to $95 million and $85.7 million, respectively. Yes, Spider-Man is a more popular character than those two, but the Spider-Man franchise lacks the excitement that surrounding the Avengers series. An opening in that range—possibly a bit higher, hopefully not lower—is likely for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Even if it falls a bit short at the domestic box office, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will likely make up for it overseas. The movie has already earned over $155 million, and is set to expand in to China, Brazil, France and India this weekend. In particular, look for it to do massive business in China, where the first one earned over $48 million despite opening on the same day as The Dark Knight Rises. Ultimately, it could wind up near the last movie's $490 million total.

There are also two noteworthy limited releases this weekend. Fox Searchlight is opening well-reviewed romantic drama Belle at four locations, where it should score solid per-theater averages. Meanwhile, Focus Features is dumping Elizabeth Banks comedy Walk of Shame in to 51 locations with little fanfare. Any hope it has of catching on is squashed by the fact that it's receiving a day-and-date VOD release, which has been a death knell for theatrical titles for the past year or two.

Forecast (May 2-4)

1. Amazing Spider-Man 2 - $91 million

2. The Other Woman - $13.6 million (-45%)

3. Captain America - $9.4 million (-42%)

4. Heaven is for Real - $9.3 million (-35%)

5. Rio 2 - $8.6 million (-38%)

Bar for Success

The first Spider-Man opened to $114.8 million on this same weekend in 2002. With 12 years of ticket price inflation and the addition of 3D premiums, it would be disappointing if The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can't come close to that figure. Still, we'll cut it some slack—anything above $100 million is fine for this superhero sequel.

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