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Spider-Man, 3D Box Office and Blade II – John Scalzi’s Mailbag Returns!

Spider-Man, 3D Box Office and Blade II – John Scalzi’s Mailbag Returns!” width=”560″/>

Slow scifi movie week + Cabin fever because of piles of snow + Interesting questions in e-mail = Mailbag!

First question:

Avatar’s domestic box office overtook Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen last weekend to make it the number one movie of 2009, but I think Avatar cheated because it gets extra money from 3D screenings. How much would Avatar made if its ticket prices were the same as Transformers‘?

This is an interesting question, actually. The estimates I’ve seen have 3D screenings being anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of Avatar’s take, and other estimates I’ve seen have 3D tickets running 20 to 30 percent more expensive than regular movie tickets. So, for the sake of argument, let’s say that 75 percent of Avatar’s box office take is from 3D showings, and that the tickets for these are 25 percent more expensive than regular tickets.

As of last Monday, Avatar’s domestic take was $431 million, so about $323.25 million of that was from 3D showings. Lopping off a quarter of that gross gets you to $242.44 million. Add back in the 25% which were 2D showings and you get a total of about $350 million. Which is less than Transformers: ROTF’s $402 million.

Now, this is a very “back of the envelope” sort of number crunching — I leave it to people with more accurate numbers to fine-tune them. But I feel comfortable saying that Avatar is at the top of the domestic box office because of 3D surcharges, not because more people in North America saw it in theaters than saw Transformers.

That is, so far. Because here’s the other thing: Avatar’s weekend box office declines have been amazingly shallow (2 percent, 10 percent and 28 percent so far), especially in an era in which steep declines are the norm (Transformers’ second weekend was down 61 percent from its first). Avatar will almost certainly top $500 million domestically and might even topple The Dark Knight as the No. 2 domestic movie of all time. I think it’s fairly safe to say that within the next couple of weeks Avatar will be the top movie of the last year, no matter what.

Next:

What are your thoughts about what’s happening with the Spider-Man franchise?

For those of you who don’t know, the Spider-Man franchise will be rebooted with a new director and new stars after director Sam Raimi was reportedly unhappy with the script for Spider-Man 4, which was then pushed back and eventually overhauled completely.

On the one hand, I think this is probably for the best: Spider-Man 3 was one more Spidey flick than was absolutely necessary, and I think they took the franchise as far as it was going to go with Raimi and Tobey Maguire. Bringing in new people and a new approach is likely to be a good thing for the franchise in the long run.

On the other hand, I think implicit in the concept of a “reboot” is the idea that there’s some time between the end of one franchise timeline and the start of another. Examples: Star Trek, which lay fallow for seven years between Nemesis and last year’s installment, and Batman, which rested for eight years between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins. The only franchise that slides reinvention right on top of a previous era is the Bond franchise, but it’s a special case (and besides, even then there was six year gap between License to Kill, which almost killed the franchise, and Goldeneye, which revived it).

The point being: How can you miss Spider-Man if he won’t go away? If Sony wants to rewind and re-introduce the franchise, they should probably let it rest for a bit; otherwise they risk either backlash or fatigue, especially since Spider-Man 3 was the weakest of the series. Even 2012, the current new release date, may be too soon. Of course, that’s asking a movie studio to delay a potential payday of hundreds of millions of dollars, and I don’t see that happening.

Final question:

Blade II in your Best Scifi of the Decade list? Over Spider-Man 2? Or Dark Knight? Really?

Yeah, really. First, I’ve noted before that I think Dark Knight isn’t science fiction, although it’s closely related. So it’s not eligible for the list (although, I think it’s probably the best example of franchise entertainment of the decade). Second, other people liked Spider-Man 2 more than I did; I thought it was good but ultimately it didn’t wow me. Blade II wowed me, I think in no small part because it’s so much smarter and moodier than the other installments in its series that it made me rethink my general take on comic book movies. Now, obviously, your mileage may vary on this, and I’m OK with that. But that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Winner of the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, John Scalzi is the author of The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and the novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. He’s also Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. His column appears every Thursday.

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