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The Critical Angle: What does Spider-Man: Homecoming's box office REALLY say?

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The Critical Angle: What does Spider-Man: Homecoming’s box office REALLY say?

“Homecoming” suffered a big box office hit in its second weekend. So what?

Both producers and fans were nervous about this movie from the start. And why wouldn’t they be? Young, unknown Tom Holland’s Peter Parker would be the third big-screen version of the character in only 10 years, and the efforts built around the previous guy did not meet expectations, causing Sony to scramble and buddy up to the magic touch of Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios.

But it worked! Or did it?

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Spider-Man: Homecoming came charging out of the gate this year with a haul of $117 million in its opening weekend, enough to best Wonder Woman‘s initial effort, but falling short of what the franchise-building Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 took in.

Things went downhill from there. Drastically.

Homecoming suffered a 62% drop on its second weekend — which sure sounds like a lot, as noted by Forbes contributor Rob Cain. That’s a territory usually reserved for DC movies, although, as Cain pointed out, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War did even worse in this regard.

The Critical Angle: What does Spider-Man: Homecoming's box office REALLY say?

So what’s going on? Some people use this data to jubilantly proclaim the end of the superhero fad has finally arrived, and we can all get back to … I don’t know, Westerns? Vaudeville? What did people watch before superheroes, and why are we so mad they’re gone?

Those schadenfreude cowboys might want to settle down and take a more circumspect perspective. While Spidey tumbled a terrible amount, GotG2 held solid at a respectable 55% second weekend drop. And Wonder Woman lived up to her name, falling only 43% weekend-to-weekend, before going on to become the fifth-highest grossing superhero movie OF ALL TIME, behind just the Avengers movies and two thirds of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night trilogy.

It’s pretty clear, then, that general “superhero” fatigue is not the problem here. Maybe there’s no problem at all — Spider-Man: Homecoming ended up with $862 million worldwide, still behind Guardians but actually surpassing Wonder Woman.

But Sony had high hopes this reboot would finally right the ship and bring Spidey back to the box office dominance the original trilogy experienced. And while Homecoming‘s $330 million domestic gross does blow away Andrew Garfield’s Amazing movies — the first film only managed $262 million and the second did even worse — it can’t hold a candle to Tobey Maguire’s silver screen introduction of the character, which brought in $404 million, $374 million and $337 million in its three installments. And that’s before adjusting for inflation, kids.

So could it just be Spider-Man fatigue? The diehards went out first weekend, and everyone else decided to wait for video before they took another chance?

The Critical Angle: What does Spider-Man: Homecoming's box office REALLY say?

Maybe. Homecoming was incredibly well-received by both critics and fans, earning a 92% Fresh rating on review-aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes, and an audience grade of “A” on Cinemascore. Realistically, then, once everyone sees the film on video or cable, they should be pumped and ready to go spend money on the sequel, right?

Maybe not. Second weekend drops are dictated largely by word of mouth, making them potentially a better indicator of audience satisfaction than a self-selected, small sample on a website. So compared to Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s 62% plummet, how did previous franchise-killer’s Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2 fare?

Their second-weekend drops were 62% and 61%, respectively.

Eep.

The Critical Angle is a recurring feature that uses critical thinking and skepticism to analyze pop culture phenomena. Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies the tools of science. Rather than repeating the same old arguments, we put them to the test.

Most of the data used in this analysis was obtained at Box Office Mojo.

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