‘Madame Web’ flops at the box office

“Madame Web,” the latest project from Sony and Marvel’s collaborative Spider-Verse films, flopped at the box office over the holiday weekend after receiving negative reviews in the lead-up to its premiere.

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The film, starring Dakota Johnson, Sydney Sweeney and Adam Scott, earned just $17.6 million over the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend, according to data from Box Office Mojo. Since its Valentine’s Day debut, it has earned $25.8 million domestically.

This puts the film’s opening weekend well below that of Sony’s “Morbius,” a heavily lambasted superhero film that earned $39 million in its opening weekend.

(The Bob Marley biopic “One Love” topped the holiday weekend box office, earning $33.2 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.)

In “Madame Web,” the young paramedic Cassandra “Cassie” Webb (Johnson) starts to unlock clairvoyant powers (which she obtained genetically after her mother was bitten by a spider). Though she’s a reluctant hero at first, she is soon forced to protect three young women from a mysterious villain (who looks like a Bad Spider-Man).

Critics universally panned the film for its sloppy editing, clunky plot and sluggish action sequences, resulting in a dreadful 13 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes as of Monday morning.

“A car crash would be more interesting. Madame Web is a fender bender — nothing calamitous, just a time suck,” wrote Kimberley Jones of the Austin Chronicle. “An annoyance. A waste.”

But audiences appeared to enjoy the film slightly more, celebrating its campy, unserious vibe. Some fans cheered the project for being reminiscent of a superhero film from the aughts, before these types of movies were cinematic masterpieces (think “The Dark Knight”) or interconnected through a wider multiverse (“The Marvels”).

The poor box office performance was expected given the film’s tangled web of problems from the get-go. Johnson admitted in an interview with theWrap that the film went through heavy editing. The film’s first trailer, released in November, didn’t help as fans ridiculed it heavily on social media. One line from it — “He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders right before she died” — became an internet sensation, though it was cut from the final version of the film.

The film also doesn’t have any direct tie-ins to other Spider-Man films or projects, despite including characters such as Spider-Woman and Madame Web herself, who made her debut in “The Amazing Spider-Man” comics. A promotional line for the film’s poster and marketing — “Her web connects them all” — suggested that there would be more links to the friendly neighborhood web-slinger, but there are only slight nods to spider-powered heroes and Peter Parker’s family.

There was also concern from fans about how well the film would do considering “Madame Web” is not a “Disney-Marvel” movie, but a “Sony-Marvel” movie.

The backstory on Sony-Marvel movies could fill an entire newspaper, but here’s what’s essential to know: They take place in “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe,” which is full of fringe characters from Spider-Man lore (Sony reportedly has the film rights to about 900 characters connected to Spider-Man). Since Sony loaned Spider-Man as a character to Marvel Studios for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony is left making movies about characters on the sidelines — like Madame Web. There has been rumors and reports of Spider-Man potentially crossing back over into Sony flicks, but it hasn’t happened yet.

These Sony-specific Marvel projects have struggled to resonate with audiences. Other films in that group include the much-maligned “Morbius,” the two Venom films and the forthcoming “Kraven the Hunter” (which had a trailer that was also belittled online). Because the films usually nod briefly to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, they are not-really-but-kinda connected to the MCU. (The debate over their connection is still ongoing.)

But that doesn’t mean that Marvel Studios isn’t keeping an eye on these films and their results.

On the same day “Madame Web” hit theaters, and one day after reviews first dropped, Marvel Studios buried headlines of the film’s poor showing with long-awaited news of “The Fantastic Four” cast. Then, a day after the premiere, Marvel dropped the trailer for its upcoming “X-Men ’97” animated show, a revival of the ’90s series.

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