Sony's looking at the success of Disney's Marvel franchises and thinking 'yes, please!'
"We are expanding the Spider-Man'universe into The Sinister Six and Venom, so that we have Spider-Man movies every year," says Sony's Amy Pascal, co-chair of its Hollywood unit. Sony aims to imitate Disney's success with its Marvel franchise, which has benefited from yearly releases. No confirmed date has been announced for either the Venom or the Sinister Six film, but the idea is to have them all out in cinemas by June 2016.
Why? For the money, that's why. Sony's film unit has had a troubled past. It's not just about the box office receipts; it's also about the TV loot, when each film breaks through to the small screen. In Q3 2013 we saw the consequences of mediocre releases: Captain Phillips and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 were OK, but nothing when compared to The Amazing Spider-Man and Men in Black 3, out the previous year.
None of its planned 2014 film releases look that enticing, and we've already seen what RoboCop, The Monuments Men and Pompeii have to offer. Take a look at Pompeii's box so far: it cost something like $100 million to make the Titanic-hits-a-volcano epic, and will admit to grossing $11.106 million, including its opening weekend take, in the USA as of February 24th. OK, early days, but not exactly a gold rush of a film. RoboCop also had a $100 million estimated budget, made $25.051 million on its opening weekend, and admits to grossing $44.673 million in the USA by February 24th. Respectable takings, and this February 12th release is probably going to be one of Sony's better earners for this financial year. Meanwhile The Monuments Men is poised to be a modest financial success; that one cost only $70 million to make, released on February 7th, made over 30% of its costs in its opening weekend and grossed $58.457 million as of February 24th.
Compare that to the Amazing Spider-Man, a July 2012 release. Its estimated budget was $230 million, it made $62.004 million on its opening weekend - so about the same, expressed as a percentage, as RoboCop - and grossed $262.030 million in the USA alone by October 2012. That's the kind of success Sony's Pictures Unit needs right now.
Of course, Sony has one significant disadvantage. Disney owns Marvel; it can produce whatever it likes, based on whichever property it likes. Sony only has its hooks in Spider Man and a few related characters, limiting what it can do with the franchise. Hope you like Venom; you might be seeing a lot more of him than you bargained for.