LOS ANGELES - With an estimated $257 million worldwide opening, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is about as unmitigated a success as is possible for a movie.
That's been a rare sentiment this summer. Franchises like "Transformers," "Pirates of the Caribbean," and even "Despicable Me" are showing signs of fatigue and have begun banking more on the international market. The domestic box office has slumped about 8 percent below this point last year for the season. Nowadays, getting people into movie theaters can seem like a heroic effort.
That's where superheroes come in. The following three big-budget movies have earned their stay this summer: "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" ($857.7 million worldwide); "Wonder Woman" ($745.8 million worldwide); and now "Spider-Man: Homecoming." If this summer has been reassuring in any way for the film economy, it's that superhero movies still work. Below are five reasons why this latest release in particular stood out.
- It captured buzz
It started, as many things do, at Comic-Con. There, last year, director Jon Watts and Tom Holland set the tone of what the movie would be for an already enthusiastic gaggle of fans. The job was an important one. There had been, after all, two other actors in the suit within the last decade and a half. Potential viewers had to have a reason to care about this particular version of the character. Spider-Man meets John Hughes? That was something different. The first official trailer dropped months later and raked in 266 million views globally in its first week. Then came partnerships with the NBA, Amazon, YouTube, and a media campaign that dominated social platforms for weeks leading up to the film's release. But the tone was perhaps best captured by posters that showed Holland on the side of building in Midtown Manhattan, off an expressway sign, and lounging by the water wearing headphones. Combined, the ever-elusive and ephemeral buzz stuck around long enough to lead to a successful launch.
- It appealed to younger viewers
Setting Spider-Man's story in high school helped distinguish him from other Spideys, but it also did the same for the rest of the superheroes who have witnessed cityscape after cityscape crumble in recent years. In a landscape filled with sometimes very adult themes, "Homecoming's" promotions suggested a guilt-free trip to the theater for families. Sure, it still carried a MPAA rating of PG-13, but he's in high school. And former Disney Channel star Zendaya is there too! So far, the young male audience seems to be the movie's biggest fan. Men below the age of 25 made up the largest portion of the audience, 35 percent, according to data from ComScore and Screen Engine's PostTrak. The highest approval rating came from audience members between the ages of 13 and 17, 96 percent of whom rated the film either "excellent" or "very good," the two highest marks in the poll.
- Critical approval
But young men aren't the only cheerleaders. The grand finale of the marketing process came on June 29 when reviews for the movie were unleashed allowing the studio to claim one of the best-reviewed superhero movies of all time. It's a testament to a whole host of individuals involved, but particularly Kevin Feige, who has set a precedent with the Marvel Cinematic Universe that a superhero movie can have it all -- critical success, audience approval, and, of course, a massive payday in the end.
- The right date
These days, the release dates for big studio movies are set years in advance. Heck, this film's sequel's release date was announced more than half a year before "Homecoming" even hit theaters. But as the launch approached, this weekend looked like a solid pick. It's been six weeks since "Wonder Woman" entered theaters, and even that movie's lasting waves of enthusiasm have seemingly trailed off at least enough for another hero to enter the picture. That, combined with the aforementioned fatigue that grazed last weekend's big release, "Despicable Me 3," was the perfect set-up for "Homecoming" to score.
- Partnering with Marvel
As was teased earlier, Feige's involvement in the project proves, yet again, that the Marvel label is the gold standard. Holland's involvement in "Captain America: Civil War" meant that audiences weren't coming to him in "Homecoming" cold. Fans who may have balked at yet another Spider-Man movie were more likely to be compelled to be invested now that he's part of a larger narrative. The factors that lead to a successful launch are many and often times personal. But Feige and Marvel's track record is such that audiences can trust - another rare sentiment in Hollywood that applies to what will end up as one of the biggest box office hits of the summer