Sony's (NYSE: SNE)Spider-Man: Homecoming swings into theaters on July 7, but it looks like the company has already cleared one of the key hurdles in returning the webhead to prominence on the big screen -- delivering a good film. Homecoming currently boasts the approval of 93% of film critics on review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the best-reviewed superhero films ever, which bodes well for both its opening weekend performance and ability to sustain ticket sales longer term.
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Good reviews haven't always been necessary for box office success, but they do look increasingly important based on ticket sales trends over the last few years -- and especially when looking at some of 2017's big successes and disappointments. As an example, Time Warner's Wonder Woman benefited from great reviews and strong word of mouth, and saw a $103 million domestic opening weekend expand to a $350 million stateside gross that's still climbing. Of the year's top-five domestic earners so far, each has a favorable Rotten Tomatoes score.
Alternatively, poor critical receptions for Viacom's and Disney's (NYSE: DIS) respective Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises seem to be taking a toll on performance, and lousy reviews likely helped sink Comcast's The Mummy -- and perhaps even the entire Dark Universe film franchise it was meant to launch.
Why it matters
Spider-Man is Sony's most valuable film property by far, and the company's struggling movie wing needs Homecoming to be a breakout hit. Strong reviews for the franchise reboot suggest the company made the right move in partnering with Disney and its Marvel unit for the new series, and make it likely that Sony will be able to grow ticket sales with Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 -- which is currently slated for a July 2019 release. A successful reintroduction of Spider-Man also bodes well for Sony's upcoming superhero movies Venom and Silver and Black even though Peter Parker and his costumed alter-ego will not feature in either film.
A fantastic critical reception for the MCU version of Spider-Man's solo-feature debut is also a win for Disney, as it stands to increase the character's draw in at least two upcoming Avengers films, and strengthens the overall franchise. Disney also owns Spidey's merchandising rights, so The House of Mouse will likely see even better consumer products sales from a character that already generates more revenue than any other superhero.
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