Did The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Mark the End of the Summer Movie Season?

With the modest debut of 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' last weekend, summer movie launches just aren't what they used to be.

May 10, 2014 at 6:21AM
Last weekend, Sony (NYSE:SNE) Pictures' The Amazing Spider-Man 2 officially kicked off the summer movie season with a modest $91.6 million domestic debut. Now that's all well and good, but I can't help but wonder: Did we just witness the end of the much-hyped summer movie season?

Disney, Sony, and Time Warner are all battling for box office supremacy

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 couldn't outperform Disney's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Credit: Sony Pictures

Don't get me wrong. Despite Sony "only" boosting the production budget for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 by roughly $20 million to $250 million, its launch marked a 48% improvement over that of its July 2012 predecessor. Sony investors, then, should be more than pleased with Spidey's relative outperformance.

But consider the fact Disney (NYSE:DIS) Marvel's $170 million effort in Captain America: The Winter Soldier grossed $95 million during its own weekend debut last month. Wasn't May supposed to be where the real money is made?

The last two years, for example, Disney's comic book-inspired properties have achieved amazing opening weekends by launching in May -- first with $207.4 million from Marvel's The Avengers in 2012, then last year with $174.1 million from Iron Man 3. And despite Winter Soldier's record-breaking April, those jaw-dropping numbers are one of the primary reasons Marvel's Captain America 3 and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Batman vs. Superman are both slated for release on May 6, 2016.

Could it be, then, that studios should rethink when they can launch their respective tentpole properties? Or perhaps more importantly from our perspective, would investors cheer such a move?

Summer is still where it's at
Not necessarily.
Disney, Sony, and Time Warner are all battling for box office supremacy

Marvel's The Avengers achieved the highest May release of all time, Credit: Disney

Timing is still important to an extent, especially considering summer films make up the top five weekend releases of all time. Curiously, though, only the top two spots are held by the aforementioned May blockbusters from Disney, while third, fourth, and fifth were all July films from Time Warner in 2011's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, and 2008's The Dark Knight.
It's easy, however, to forget Disney Marvel's Thor only collected $65.7 million from its own first weekend in May 2011. For perspective, Iron Man 2 fared better the year before with $128.1 million, and the first Iron Man in 2008 grabbed around $98.6 million. 
But these were before The Avengers hit the big screen to give the entire franchise a big boost. I think it's fair to say, then, the incredible numbers we saw from Iron Man 3 and The Avengers were the undeniable results of franchise building, and have simply set unrealistic expectations for subsequent early May releases outside of Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And besides, we already have plenty to which we can look forward later this month, including Disney's May 30 release of Maleficent -- which I recently argued could hit $1 billion when all is said and done -- and the extraordinarily promising May 16 reboot of Godzilla from Legendary Pictures and Time Warner. That's also not to mention Paramount's Transformers: Age of Extinction on June 27, and Disney Marvel's wild card in Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1.

In the end, that's why I think it's safe to say the summer movie season is still firmly in tact.

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With all the focus on the big screen, don't forget these companies are also battling for attention in your living room. You know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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