Sony hopes that the ”Spider-Man“ star will sell tickets outside of Marvel in pricey video-game adaptation with franchise ambitions
On the same week that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” passed “Avatar” on the domestic box office charts, that film’s leading man, Tom Holland, will be in another Sony Pictures film with “Uncharted,” a video game adaptation that marks Sony’s attempt to turn its Playstation franchises into a blockbuster stable.
But unlike Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” films — which just got a third film and a streaming series — or Universal/Illumination’s upcoming “Mario” film, “Uncharted” and its treasure hunting hero Nathan Drake haven’t exactly crossed over into mainstream notoriety despite releasing four successful installments for Playstation.
That means that Holland, fresh off one of the biggest box office hits of all time, will be the main draw as Sony hopes his Spidey popularity can carry over to some degree outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For most Marvel stars, that hasn’t really happened unless they are paired with another big franchise, like “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Chris Pratt with “Jurassic World,” or part of a film with very strong word of mouth, like Chris Evans with “Knives Out.”
On the flip side, there have been several big-budget flops featuring Marvel stars. Robert Downey Jr.’s first post-Iron Man film “Dolittle,” was a bomb for Universal, and while Scarlett Johansson has found prestige success with “Jojo Rabbit” and “Marriage Story,” her action star turn in “Ghost In The Shell” released four years before “Black Widow” was a financial and critical flop that earned her accusations of taking a whitewashed role. Chris Hemsworth’s box office struggles outside of “Thor” are also long and well-documented.
But Boxoffice analyst Shawn Robbins says that Holland has something that those actors don’t: a strong, young following. Though he’s been Peter Parker for six years now, Holland is still in the early stages of his career and has built up a devoted fanbase on social media through Marvel that could follow him to other projects as he starts to branch out.
This is something that has benefited his “Spider-Man” co-star, Zendaya, who has expanded her career beyond her performance as MJ with thousands of fans watching and tweeting about her on HBO’s “Euphoria” every Sunday. She was also prominently featured in the marketing for “Dune,” which just passed $400 million at the global box office as it earned 11 Oscar nominations.
“A lot of the other Marvel actors were pretty well established when they took those roles, but Holland is just starting to try other things like ‘Uncharted’ and the Fred Astaire biopic,” Robbins said. “We still don’t know how much longer he will do ‘Spider-Man’ or what other things he’s interested in doing as an actor, so there’s still plenty of upside for him.”
“Uncharted” is projected to do better than “Ghost in the Shell” or “Dolittle,” but will still be a modest launch with trackers predicting a Presidents Day extended weekend opening in the $30-35 million range, with Sony projecting a start on the lower end of that window.
For comparison, the opening weekend record for video game adaptations belongs to “Sonic the Hedgehog” with $58 million in February 2020, followed by “Detective Pikachu” with $54.3 million the previous summer. Both of those films got strong audience reception with both families and gamers, with “Sonic” earning an A on CinemaScore and “Pikachu” earning an A-.
“Uncharted,” which skews more towards the young adults that have been box office kingmakers in this post-shutdown era, will need similarly strong audience word-of-mouth as critics have been mixed with a 48% score on Rotten Tomatoes. With Imax and premium screen support for two weeks, it will be the second weekend in theaters that really determines whether this $120 million tentpole will spawn another franchise for both Sony and Holland.
If word of mouth is strong, “Uncharted” may be able to hold its own in March against “The Batman,” which is expected to become the second film of the COVID era to earn a $100 million-plus opening weekend. Otherwise, it may need help from overseas grosses to get over the break-even point.
The good news is that international numbers so far have been solid, as “Uncharted” made $22 million from 15 countries last weekend, including No. 1 starts in the U.K., Spain and Russia. Sony reported that in those markets, “Uncharted” opened 21% ahead of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and 12% ahead of “Eternals,” a sign of the slow but steady recovery of the box office as many countries exit the COVID-19 Omicron variant surge.
While “Uncharted” is set to take No. 1, United Artists will also release a film this weekend with “Dog,” a buddy comedy starring and co-directed by Channing Tatum about an Army ranger paired with a dog traumatized by war. The film is projected for an opening weekend of $12 million over four days and does not have a Rotten Tomatoes score.
Box Office Reporter • email@example.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster