- Mystery sign poster hits Washington state town: ‘It’s OK to say Merry Christmas’
- Pope Francis forms commission to advise on sex abuse
- Anthony Weiner on radio? Cumulus says, ‘Never, ever’
- Executive order: Obama ups green-energy mandate on feds to 20 percent
- GOP launches candidate training: How to talk to women
- N.Y.’s Rockefeller Center lights up, as Bloomberg flicks on 76-foot Christmas tree
- Northern Ireland turns to ‘Game of Thrones’ to draw in tourists
- Washington woman live-tweets husband’s horrific car death
- China City of America mulled for New York — with $65M tax dollars
- Yemen defense ministry rocked by suicide bomber, gunfire
Damage to Spider-Man brand may have Disney climbing the walls
The Walt Disney Co. owns some of the world’s best-known characters — Donald Duck, Buzz Lightyear, Hannah Montana, to name a few. Disney also owns Spider-Man, a character who is lately recognizable for all the wrong reasons, and whose value may be on the decline.
Colin L. Powell made famous the “Pottery Barn Rule”: You break it, you own it. Through the travails of its costly arachnid, Disney has painfully learned the Spider-Man Corollary: They break it, you own it.
In recent months, Spidey has looked like he just went 10 rounds with the Sinister Six. The $70 million Broadway musical “Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark” — which Monday begins a three-week hiatus for radical revisions — has provided steady fodder for everyone from network newscasters to Conan O'Brien.
Meanwhile, production continues on “The Amazing Spider-Man,”Sony’s reboot of the film franchise, which features an all-new cast and creative team and has received mixed early reactions. The movie will be released in 2012, just five years after “Spider-Man 3.” That may be too soon for some fans.
“Your average moviegoer isn’t reading Variety every day, so they’re just profoundly confused why they’re already making a new ‘Spider-Man,’” said Phil Contrino, editor of BoxOffice.com. “They’re not starting off on a great foot.”
Sony’s task marketing the film will be made tougher by the deafening buzz from Broadway, where “Turn Off the Dark” has seen its director fired, actors maimed, and official opening delayed countless times.
“When people think of Spider-Man,” said Mr. Contrino, “the first thing that pops into their head is, ‘Why are they rebooting the movie?’ Then the second thought is, ‘That play is a freaking mess on Broadway.’”
Disney didn’t make the mess. But it sure owns it.
The company paid $4 billion in 2009 to purchase Marvel, the comics publisher turned media mini-empire that gave birth to Iron-Man, Thor and Captain America. But Disney went into the deal knowing that Spider-Man — the Mickey Mouse of Marvel — was tangled in a web of licensing agreements. Producer Tony Adams secured the character’s stage rights in 2002 (when Mr. Adams died in 2005, his producing partners took the reins), and Columbia has had the film rights on lockdown since 1999. Spider-Man isn’t even allowed to appear at a Disney theme park east of the Mississippi River.
Citing the licensing deals attached to Spider-Man and other major characters, Citigroup analyst Jason Bazinet wrote at the time of the sale, “Over the long run we suspect this will be viewed as [Disney chief Robert] Iger’s first major mistake as CEO.”
Marvel has some say in how its licensees portray its characters, and is listed as a producer on both “Amazing” and “Turn Off the Dark.” But Disney has no financial stake in either project, and thus is largely divorced from both. To reclaim rights to Spider-Man on all platforms, Disney would likely have to purchase them back from their licensees — a costly move, but one that might have spared the character some humiliation.
“I believe a hands-off approach to branding rarely ends well,” said Mike Myatt, managing director of branding-consultant firm N2growth. “I believe Disney likely regrets their approach. If they could have been involved in these projects, they should have been.”
Mr. Myatt calls the Spider-Man brand “particularly strong,” and notes that it has survived other embarrassing portrayals in comics, cartoons and toys. But Mr. Contrino warned that if next year’s film falls short at the box office, the property could be caught in a “perfect storm of failure.”
“The third ‘Spider-Man’ film was a financial success, but a lot of fans didn’t like it, and it turned a lot of people off,” he said. “Then on top of that you have the Broadway show. Then they try a movie again and that fails. One-hundred percent of the brand would be tarnished from that.”
Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
- CURL: 'Mission Accomplished' for Obamacare
- American teacher shot and killed at Benghazi international school
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- NAPOLITANO: Liberty, the wellspring of capitalism and charity
- Pentagon may give recruits 'a shot to start over' after shameful social media posts
- Democratic infighting erupts over 'we can have it all' fantasy on entitlements
- Obama returns to class warfare as poll numbers plunge
- Young millennials shun Obamacare, creating risky imbalance
- Hack attack: 2 million Facebook, Twitter passwords stolen
- HARPER: 'Knockout game' not a myth to liberal Sharpton
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up by Lisa King Dolloff and friends.
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.