Analysts: Sony Needs More Bigscreen Franchises

Amazing Spider-Man 2

Though the 'Spider-Man' films are going strong, studio could benefit from more tentpoles

Sony Pictures has been slower than most of its rivals to develop new film franchises — the golden ticket that studios have come to rely on in today’s margin-stressed movie business.

Media analyst Harold Vogel says the Culver City-based studio has paid a steep price for dragging its feet. “It’s creative entropy, and I think there’s been too much of a reliance on ‘Spider-Man,’ ” he says. “They need some other things to build out.”

In 2013, the studio had a feeble year at the box office, with disappointments including “After Earth” and “White House Down,”  and posted an operating loss of $181 million for the fiscal second quarter on Oct. 31 according to the studio’s consolidated financial reports.

That said, Sony has done very well by the “Spider-Man” franchise. Its 2012 reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, grossed $752 million worldwide, and the movie series is by far the studio’s most profitable. (Sony Pictures continues to share in the riches of the ongoing James Bond films, but that property is controlled by MGM, so the profit pool is far smaller.)

With a production budget of approximately $200 million, the next “Spider-Man” sequel, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” is due out May 2.

Meanwhile, SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal is spinning Spider-Man’s web ever larger, taking a page from Marvel Entertainment’s superhero movie playbook. “We are expanding the ‘Spider-Man’ universe into ‘The Sinister Six’ and ‘Venom,’ so that we have ‘Spider-Man’ movies every year,” Pascal says.

In December, Sony announced Alex Kurtzman will direct “Venom” from a script he’s writing with his longtime collaborator Roberto Orci, as well as Ed Solomon. Drew Goddard will write “The Sinister Six” with an eye to direct. Neither film has been dated, and both are in development at the studio. Marc Webb will direct “The Amazing Spider-Man 3,” securing his spot in helming all three films in the trilogy. The third pic is dated for release in June 2016.

Sony is fast-tracking its third “Smurfs” installment, which will be entirely animated (its predecessors were live action/animated hybrids). The second installment, released last July, did approximately $215 million less business worldwide than the 2011 original ($347.5 million vs. $563.7 million). Both leaned heavily on the foreign box office, which contributed more than 70% of each film’s global box office take.

Additionally, the Japanese-owned studio has begun production on “Goosebumps,” an adaptation of the hugely successful R.L. Stine novels. The books have been translated into 32 languages since the series’ inception in 1992, and have 350 million English language and 50 million international copies in print.

Pascal says “Pixels,” a feature-length adaptation of a two-minute film by Patrick Jean, is in development, although many critics note that the project has languished at the studio since the debut of the short in 2010.

Sony Pictures is also co-financing the next James Bond film, and recently acquired rights to videogame series “Gran Turismo” — a favorite of Sony Corp. CEO Kazuo Hirai.

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  1. Mark says:

    I hate that studios want to build interconnecting universes out of their franchises. Just make good movies and leave it at that, this fad will ultimately end badly.

  2. cadavra says:

    The problem isn’t that they make big-budget, teen-oriented crap. It’s that they make almost nothing BUT. The occasional 42 and MONUMENTS MEN and LAST VEGAS are welcome, but they need to make more of them, and more diverse films as well. (Apart from TRUE GRIT and arguably DJANGO, when was the last time a major studio did a western?) AIP lasted a good 25 years hitting singles and doubles, but today everyone swings for the fences, and they strike out more than they connect. The “alpha boomers” are watching–are you giving them enough to watch?

  3. Squid says:

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but is Spielberg and Lucas’s prediction coming true? They’ve got to curb this mess with some smaller fare if studios want to survive. Amy you are incredibly smart surely you see the writing on the wall.

  4. harry georgatos says:

    If every blockbuster was developed with the creativity of INCEPTION then studios can depend on solid box-office! Most films coming out of the studio system pander to the lowest common denominator targeting 15 year old kids. Movies capable of targeting demographics of all ages with quality and complex genre films is the way to go. The content is out there and only needs sophisticated treatment of story and character leading to exciting set-pieces then cardboard characters and flimsy plotting! I’ve always thought a tv show such as THE PERSUADERS if developed properly could kick-start a lucrative franchise. THE PERSUADERS has one of the best score over it’s main titles that justifies the big screen treatment! The stories are out there but unfortunately there seems to be a handful of quality writers and directors to properly craft these stories.

  5. LOL says:

    Hmm … so Amy Pascal is saying that we will have another Spider-Man every year, Kathleen Kennedy says we will have to endure a new Star Wars movie every summer, and Kevin Feige of Marvel will just put out interchangeable branded superhero fodder a few times each year whether we like it or not. Add to this the dispiriting conundrum Fox’s intention to rinse its X-Men and Fantastic Four option rights, and Warner Bros. desperate to do likewise with the stuff they have rights to, then you can see just how bad things are.

    America loves crap, that’s a given. China cannot help but adore American crap. Russia thrives on American crap. Britain is shamelessly addicted to American crap, and has sold its soul to them. The common denominator here is that the profitable philistines of the world are complicit in fuelling America’s desperate villainy in feeding us crap.

    The thing is that I for one cannot see this cycle of American crap dying out. The only way to break this terrible habit is to boycott American cinema until they start making meaningful films again. This will be good for America, and the rest of us will start liking them again because their movies will shift up in intelligence by several notches.

    Stop being crap, America. Start being cool again.

    • The movie business has caught up to the Fast food business.Just like McDonalds,people want movie brands that they can know exactly what they are getting before they pluck down their money.
      Good luck with that boycott,cause the studios in the end are giving the people what they want.

  6. DougW says:

    Not sure about Spider-Man villains being the leads.
    They should reboot “Charlie’s Angels.”

    • remembertheking says:

      No one cares about charlies angels. It will bomb at the box office. even the tv show they did in 2011 got cancelled.

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