With Spider-Man Soaring, Maybe Franchises Can Save Hollywood’s Summer After All

Sony's Spider-Man: Homecoming swung into theaters over the weekend and scored one of the year's biggest box office debuts, raking in $117 million in domestic ticket sales and over $250 million globally.

The movie represents Sony's third attempt at a franchise featuring the web-slinging superhero in the past two decades, as 21-year-old actor Tom Holland is the latest to don the "Spidey suit," following predecessors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. But, despite the fact that this is the sixth live-action Spider-Man movie since 2002—and even though Hollywood's ever-growing number of franchise sequels, reboots, and spin-offs have produced many notable flops in recent yearsHomecoming is already a success after notching the third-biggest domestic opening of 2017, according to Box Office Mojo, and Sony's second-best opening ever.

One thing that seems to have helped fuel Spider-Man: Homecoming's box office success is that critics loved the movie, which currently boasts an impressive 93% rating on movie reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, critical reception is not always an indicator of financial success in Hollywood (just ask some of these past Oscar winners), but Sony's new Spider-Man is the latest in a string of franchise films that have benefitted from strong reviews so far this year.

The superhero genre alone has seen strong box-office runs in 2017 for Warner Bros.'s Wonder Woman (92% on Rotten Tomatoes, $745 million in global box office), Walt Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (81%, $858 million globally), and 21st Century Fox's Logan (93%, $616 million globally). Even this year's The Fate of the Furious—the eighth installment in a franchise that revels in plot holes as much as it does fast cars—pleased critics enough to receive a decent 62% Rotten Tomatoes score on its way to a $1.2 billion global box office haul.

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Of course, it should not be too surprising that moviegoers tend to prefer good movies to bad ones, even if they're deciding between summer blockbusters and not potential Oscar nominees. But, so often, when yet another big-budget sequel disappoints or the latest new franchise reboot flops, people are quick to throw out terms like "sequel fatigue" as a catch-all explanation—as if the only reason a movie like Paramount's Transformers: The Last Knight made less than its four predecessors was because moviegoers are simply tired of retreads and are yearning for more originality. That may be true, but it's also fairly likely that more people would have lined up to watch yet another Transformers movie if it had done better than a 15% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The same could probably be said of other big-budget flops in 2017, from Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales to Universal's first attempt at building a monster movie universe with The Mummy.

After those films, along with others, produced a string of underwhelming box office performances in recent months, there was concern that Hollywood's entire summer box office could suffer a major downturn. Fortunately for the movie industry, movies like Wonder Woman and Spider-Man: Homecoming have swooped in to provide some welcome relief after winning over fans and critics alike, though Hollywood isn't out of the woods yet.

This weekend brings Fox's War for the Planet of the Apes to theaters. The third installment in that computer graphics-heavy sci-fi franchise is already receiving excellent reviews from critics (93% on Rotten Tomatoes), with critics arguing the Planet of the Apes trilogy is currently Hollywood's best franchise in terms of quality. That strong reception has some analysts predicting the new film could make up to $10 million to $20 million more than its opening weekend forecast of nearly $60 million in domestic ticket sales, which would make for a solid winning streak for Hollywood's summer results while also proving again the importance of franchise films receiving a stamp of approval from critics at a time when theaters are flooded with tentpole sequels and reboots.

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