‘Spider-Man 2’ Faces Web of Heroes at the Box Office

Sony is sending its web-slinging hero into the fray just ahead of a superhero pic onslaught o'seas -- Oh, and then there's 'Godzilla'

Spiderman struggle at Foreign Box Office
Martin Gee for Variety

In “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Peter Parker faces off against a double dose of villains played by Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan.

But when the upcoming sequel debuts in theaters abroad (April 16) and in the U.S. (May 2), Spidey will find himself entangled with even more formidable foes — Marvel rivals Captain America and Wolverine— not to mention a terrifying Japanese monster named Godzilla.

Of all the studios in summer 2014’s battle of the superheroes, Sony Pictures, which backs “Spider-Man 2,” arguably has the most at stake. Chairman Michael Lynton and co-chair Amy Pascal need the latest installment of their web-slinging franchise to deliver outsized grosses to offset the studio’s substantial investment, and reverse a recent string of domestic duds that include “RoboCop” and “The Monuments Men.”

Aside from the necessary financial boost, Sony is desperate to lift morale at the studio, which has been reeling from an onslaught of layoffs and other cost-saving moves that have rattled nerves in Culver City and beyond.

Just how big does “Spider-Man 2,” directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, need to be? Pascal, who declined to be interviewed, has set a goal of $1 billion worldwide, say sources. Just 18 movies have minted that kind of loot, most recently Disney’s animated “Frozen,” Disney/Marvel’s “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” — and Sony’s James Bond movie “Skyfall.”

“Summer movies have to go all in and hope that the audience follows,” says box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “That seems like what Sony is trying to do. They have to bet big to win big, and have confidence in the movie. But the billion dollar club is very exclusive.”

Sony is betting big all right, with more than $400 million in production and worldwide marketing costs riding on the superhero’s back. The studio is banking on the sequel to out-earn its 2012 predecessor, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” whose $752 million global take was less than the B.O. of each of the three “Spider-Man” pics that starred Tobey Maguire.

“Spider-Man 2” is tracking to open in the U.S. at around $100 million, which would be considerably more than the $62 million three-day debut of “The Amazing Spider-Man” reboot. While the sequel is expected to be a massive hit, Spidey will have a limited window to save the day among the crowded field of superhero films — notably “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which opened domestically April 4, and 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which is set for May 23.

“Since everybody seems to be making a superhero film, there may very well be a saturation factor and fatigue going on,” says media analyst Hal Vogel.

Disney/Marvel’s “The Winter Soldier” has earned more than $480 million worldwide so far. In many international markets, “Spider-Man” is opening in “Soldier’s” wake (in Japan, just 11 days later), and will be targeting the same fanboy audience. Sony may have underestimated Captain America’s considerable brawn, buoyed by strong reviews.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” meanwhile, is among the most anticipated movies of the summer, and could claw at Spider-Man’s legs. The seventh “X-Men” film has the buzzy premise of piling its star-studded cast (including Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence and Halle Berry) from prequels and sequels into a single film packed with Marvel mutants.

Warner Bros. and Legendary’s remake of “Godzilla,” which hits theaters May 16, also is expected to draw legions of young males, and could be one of the movies to beat this summer. Another heavyweight fanboy-targeted sequel, “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” is on tap this summer, but its June 27 opening should give the superheroes a few weeks to breathe.

“There will be causalities,” Vogel predicts. “For Sony, it is important to hit their target because ‘Spider-Man’ is their flagship product, and they’re not as diversified in terms of films as they should be.”

In short, expect a web of intrigue.