About genre movies fighting for Oscars love

No Time to Die poster

Studios are in the midst of their blitz to get some love from the Oscars. And that includes lobbying efforts for genre movies to gain some recognition.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, has been lobbying for No Time to Die to get awards while the ultimate goal is the Oscars. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios are moving to get Spider-Man No Way Home some Oscar love.

Once upon a time, popular movies did pretty well at the Oscars. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), a Cecil B. DeMille schlockfest *won* the Best Picture Oscar. I like Greatest Show but there’s no denying the schlock factor.

Star Wars (1977) was nominated for Best Picture. The movie won Oscars for art direction and score among other awards but fell short of actually winning Best Picture.

In more recent decades, it’s been hard for genre movies to get a lot of Oscar recognition outside of technical awards. There were some exceptions such as Best Actor awards for The Dark Knight (2008) and The Joker (2019). Ironically, both actors involved (Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix) played different versions of the same character.

It’s kind of tough to get Oscar love for playing a hero in a genre movie.

One big exception was Black Panther (2018), a Marvel film that was a big hit while highlighting a Black cast. It got a Best Picture nomination and won a few Oscars, including best score.

All of which brings us to the current situation. MGM is pushing a bit of everything, including star Daniel Craig, director Cary Fukunaga, the writing team and, of course, Best Picture.

Meanwhile, Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman (who said he hates Spider-Man No Way Home) presented a somewhat cynical reason why the academy should nominate the comic book movie anyway.

 If you want an Academy Awards telecast that wins more eyeballs than it loses, you’re going to have to nominate some of the movies that win eyeballs. I don’t disagree with that argument, and in a sense it’s the one I’m making. But this isn’t simply about numbers. It’s about a perception that drives the numbers. Sure, if “No Way Home” gets nominated, a swath of its vast fan base might tune into the Oscars that wouldn’t have otherwise. But what I’m really talking about is the essential idea that movies are, and always have been, a populist art form. If that dimension of cinema isn’t respected, something has gone wrong.

We’ll see how this turns out. The Bond films went almost 50 years between Oscars wins (special effects for Thunderball and two awards for Skyfall). Skyfall got five nominations and won two. But the Bond series has never been nominated for acting or directing.

As for Spider-Man No Way Home? Who knows? Actors and directors love to dump on comic book-based movies but a number of stars have signed on comic book-based movies.

Bond 25 questions: 007 vs. Spidey at the box office

“What? We’re not No. 1 anymore?”

To be honest, it seemed as if No Time to Die had secured the title of No. 1 film at the global box office among non-Chinese movies. Yes, Spider-Man No Way Home was expected to do very well. But it had a Dec. 17 release date.

Surely, the 25th James Bond film would hold on for the end of calendar 2021. Well, no. Spider-Man No Way Home has passed the $1 billion global box office mark.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What happened with No Time to Die?

It’s going to finish 2021 as the No. 2 global film (behind Spider-Man No Way Home) among non-Chinese movies. So that’s not a flop.

However, a significant development was how No Time to Die’s U.S. box office performance didn’t match relatively recent Bond films.

In the U.S., No Time to Die generated $160.8 million at the box office, coming in at (00)7 for the year. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But Bond in the U.S. lagged the rest of the globe.

By contrast, 2012’s Skyfall produced a box office of $304.4 million while 2015’s SPECTRE had $200.1 million. And those figures don’t take into account higher movie ticket prices.

No Time to Die, of course, had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in three delays in the film’s release date.

OK, but why did Spider-Man do so well?

Spider-Man No Way Home wasn’t just a single Spidey movie. It was an epic.

The thing to compare the Spider-Man movie to is 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. The latter was a de facto Avengers movie. The centerpiece was multiple Marvel characters (one side led by Cap, the other side led by Iron Man) slugging it out.

Spider-Man No Way Home includes one Marvel character (Dr. Strange) with another (not naming him here to avoid spoilers) making a cameo. Villains from previous Spider-Man films make an appearance. And there are major developments that occur.

Anything else to keep in mind?

Spider-Man is part of a large universe of characters. Bond is the centerpiece of a smaller universe.

One more thing: Spider-Man debuted in 1962, the same year that the Bond film series made by Eon Productions began. Spidey is hardly an edgy creation that came out of left field. Like Bond, Spider-Man has been popular for decades.

The King’s Man stumbles in U.S. debut

The King’s Man, a prequel and origin story for two previous Kingsman movies, fell on its face at the U.S. box office.

The R-rated movie generated an estimated U.S. box office of $6.3 million for the Dec. 24-26 weekend and $10 million since it was released on Dec. 22, Exhibitor Relations Co. said on social media.

The King’s Man takes place during World War I and shows how the independent Kingsman organization came to be. Two previous Kingsman entries were set in the present day.

The movie stars Ralph Fiennes and was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also helmed Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It was originally developed at 20th Century Fox. Walt Disney Co. inherited the project when it acquired Fox (now called 20th Century Studios).

The King’s Man, like other movies, was delayed because of COVID-19. By the time it came out last week, The King’s Man was swamped in a movie landscape dominated by Spider-Man No Way Home.

The Spider-Man movie, released on Dec. 17, became the No. 1 U.S. box office film almost immediately. It soon became the first post-pandemic, non-Chinese movie to exceed $1 billion at the global box office.

Spider-Man passes NTTD for No. 1 non-Chinese movie

Spider-Man No Way Home has passed No Time to Die for the title of No. 1 box office among non-Chinese movies, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

Spider-Man’s most recent global box office figure is $813.9 million, Deadline said.

Until now, No Time to Die held the mantle of No. 1 non-Chinese movie at $774 million. The 25th James Bond film has mostly ended its theatrical run. No Time to Die this week became available for sale for home video release.

Spider-Man No Way Home, essentially, is a live-action version of Spider-Man Into the Spider Verse, a 2018 animated film that featured different versions of Spider-Man in different dimensions. The new live-action Spider-Man movie features multiple Marvel Comics characters. The film was made by Sony Pictures (which has the rights to Spider-Man) and Marvel Studios.

The new Spider-Man movie was expected to do well at the box office. But since its release last week, it has performed better than expected.

Spider-Man No Way Home Becomes No. 1 2021 U.S. release

UPDATE (Dec. 20): The final U.S. weekend figures released Monday came in higher ($260 million) than the estimate released Sunday, Exhibitor Relations Co. said. The revised global box office is now $600.8 million.

ORIGINAL POST (Dec. 19): Spider-Man No Way Home seized the title of No. 1 box office movie in 2021 on its first weekend.

The Sony release made by Marvel Studios will generate a U.S. box office of $253 million for the Dec. 17-19 weekend, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data.

Spider-Man also scored an international box office of $334.2 million for a worldwide take of $587.2 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The top global movie not made in China is No Time to Die at $771.3 million.

Until now, the No. 1 U.S. release was Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings at $224.5 million. The No. 1 U.S. weekend had belonged to Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage at $90 million.

Spider-Man No Way Home’s opening weekend beckoned to the pre-pandemic era where blockbuster movies could generate enormous box office quickly.

The movie is the third to star Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Sony has the film rights to Spider-Man and has made Spidey films since 2002. The Holland films are, more or less, a joint Sony-Marvel effort. Holland also appeared as the character in three Marvel movies, including two Avengers films.

Spider-Man No Way Home also includes Marvel’s Dr. Strange character played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Spider-Man No Way Home gets off to hot start

Spider-Man No Way Home poster

Spider-Man No Way Home, the third movie starring Tom Holland as the web-slinger, this week got off to a blistering start in both the U.K. and U.S.

The film had an opening day box office of 7.6 million pounds ($10.1 million) in the U.K., The Hollywood Reporter said, citing the U.K. Cinema Association. That beat out No Time to Die on its opening day and was “the biggest opening day of all time for a Wednesday,” according to THR.

On Thursday, the movie generated $50 million in preview showings, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data.

That was No. 3 all-time for U.S. preview showings, although an asterisk was involved — the preview showings began earlier than normal for Spider-Man No Way Home.

Still, the results are welcome news for both Sony, which has the rights to the character, and Marvel Studios, which since 2017 had made Spider-Man films with Sony.

Spider-Man No Way Home adopts a “multi-verse” approach featuring villains (and the actors who played them) from Sony-made Spider-Man films of the past. Also present is Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the Marvel sorcerer who appeared in one solo Marvel movie and two Marvel Avengers films.

Dr. Strange was created by artist Steve Ditko and his earliest stories were by Ditko and Stan Lee. The Lee-Ditko team also created Spider-Man.

Since Avengers: Endgame in 2019, Marvel has come out with movies featuring lesser-known characters, Shang Chi and the Eternals. Spider-Man is the most popular Marvel character but one Marvel Studios has to share with Sony.

The release of Spider-Man No Way Home also comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, including a new COVID variant. COVID had forced the delay of various movies, including No Time to Die.

George Perez announces terminal cancer diagnosis

Cover to a collection of George Perez work at Marvel

Retired comic book artist George Perez said in a statement on Facebook he has been diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer.

Perez, 67, said he has opted to forgo treatment and that his life expectancy is six months to a year.

The artist retired about three years ago because of health issues related to diabetes. During his career, he worked extensively at both Marvel and DC, including the Avengers, the Justice League of America, and the Teen Titans. His stories helped influence comic book-based movies.

“This is not a message I enjoyed writing, especially during the Holiday Season, but, oddly enough, I’m feeling the Christmas spirit more now than I have in many years,” Perez said in the statement.

Perez received tributes on social media, including from current and former comic book professionals.

Marvel’s Shang-Chi opens strong

Shang-Chi logo

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings had a strong U.S. opening, providing hope for theaters that the fall movie season can remain viable despite COVID-19.

The opening also was being watched by James Bond fans, looking for No Time to Die to stick with its Sept. 30 opening in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

Shang-Chi is estimated to bring in $71.4 million for Friday-Sunday weekend and $83.5 million for the four days including Monday’s Labor Day holiday, according to Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data.

Shang-Chi made his Marvel Comics debut in the 1970s and isn’t as well known to the general public as other Marvel characters. The movie also is opening only in theaters. Black Widow, another Marvel movie, opened in both theaters and as premium offering on the Disney Plus streaming service.

There are still questions related to Shang-Chi. A number of movies released during the pandemic era have fallen off sharply during their second weekend of release. Still, Shang-Chi’s opening seems to bolster Marvel’s reputation of making successful movies featuring lesser-known characters such as Ant-Man.

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal released what they called final U.S. and international trailers for No Time to Die. But there has been speculation the movie may not be out of the woods yet. No Time to Die has been delayed five times, three times because of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Marvel has another movie, Eternals, featuring lesser-known characters. The Eternals comic book was created by Jack Kirby in 1976, in a title he wrote and drew. Kirby co-created many other Marvel characters such as Captain America, Thor and The Avengers.

Here’s the tweet posted by Exhibitor Relations Co.

Fantastic Four — and the Marvel age of comics — turns 60

The Fantastic Four debuted in 1961. By 1963, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had created an integrated comics universe

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the first issue of the Fantastic Four.

The modest Marvel Comics, which relied on much-larger rival DC Comics for distribution, decided it needed to get back into superheroes after years of publishing monster and science fiction stories.

The FF were created by Stan Lee (1922-2018), handling scripting and editing, and Jack Kirby (1917-1994), performing penciling and at least half (if not more) of the plotting. The FF at least partially resembled Challengers of the Unknown, a title Kirby worked on for DC.

The title generated sales to encourage more super hero attempts. In 1962, Marvel came out with the Hulk, Thor and Spider-Man. The following year saw the debuts of Iron Man, X-Men and the Avengers.

During the 102-run Lee-Kirby run, the FF proclaimed itself to be “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” For much of that time, at least to impressionable young readers, that wasn’t hyperbole.

By 2008, Marvel decided to make its own movies after years of licensing its characters to others. Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr. was the first attempt and it was a hit. Walt Disney Co. later bought Marvel to take over the characters.

The FF itself has had mixed results in the films. 20th Century Fox (now a Disney property itself) had licensed the FF for films in the 2000s and 2015. The Fantastic Four, once the flagship of Marvel Comics, was almost an afterthought.

But in its prime, the FF was used to introduce characters such as the Black Panther and the Inhumans. The title also became a way to do crossover stories with the Hulk, the Avengers, Nick Fury, Spider-Man and others.

Marvel, the Disney-owned studio, is at a crossroads. It is now about to bring out lesser-known characters. It now controls the fate of any future Fantastic Four movies. How that turns out remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, none of that would even be an issue without the efforts of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, whose collaboration saw the light of day 60 years ago.

Some COVID-19 related movie news

There are some new tea leaves to read regarding motion pictures and COVID-19. Nothing definite, certainly not in connection with No Time to Die. But a few items to keep in mind.

Falling moviegoer confidence: The Hollywood Reporter said a late July poll indicates that confidence among moviegoers has lessened as the new delta variant of COVID-19 spreads.

An exerpt:

The results of a late July poll on moviegoing confidence levels were alarming. The National Research Group survey, closely watched by studios, showed that the overall comfort level had tumbled from a pandemic-era high of 81 percent to 72 percent in the span of just three weeks amid the delta variant. Moms appeared to be the most concerned about taking a trip to the multiplex, with their comfort index tumbling from 75 percent to 59 percent.

The story, by Pamela McClintock, references how the family film Clifford the Big Red Dog has been delayed from a planned September release. It raises questions whether other movies may also get delayed.

A notable comic book movie starts slow: Warner Bros.’s Suicide Squad debuts this weekend. It is available both in theaters and on HBO Max. It’s directed by James Gunn, who helmed two Guardians of the Galaxy films for Marvel. It’s essentially a do-over for the group of villains forced to work for the U.S. government. It also follows Birds of Prey, another Warners-DC comics film.

Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office data, said on Twitter that film’s Thursday night preview shows were nothing special.

Of course, it’s still early.

UPDATE (Aug. 8): Things didn’t go so well.

There’s another MGM movie about to come out: That would be Respect, a film about the life of singer Aretha Franklin (1942-2018).

At one point, MGM viewed Respect as a way to get Oscar nominations. But then COVID-19 caused the studio to delay from late 2020 to the Aug. 13 weekend.

Like other MGM films (including No Time to Die), it is distributed in North America by United Artists Releasing, MGM’s joint venture with Annapurna Pictures. Respect is being shown “only in theaters,” just like No Time to Die.

h/t to David Zaritsky, via Morten Steingrimsen, who flagged The Hollywood Reporter story to my attention.