Marvel's recent rereleases aren't about the fans - they're all about the box office. This year's Avengers: Endgame made cinematic history - and not just because it became the highest-grossing movie of all time. It also marked the first time Marvel Studios rereleased one of their films in the box office, with additional footage - a tribute to the late, great Stan Lee, a deleted scene featuring Professor Hulk, and a clip from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
It's beginning to look as though Avengers: Endgame may have started a trend, because Spider-Man: Far From Home is also getting a rerelease. The extended version of the film will start playing in theaters across the United States and Canada starting August 29, and will stay in theaters over Labor Day weekend. The new footage consists of a "never-before-seen action sequence," and will be available to see in IMAX at select locations.
Rereleases like these are aimed at only the most hardcore fans, who'll happily cash out to watch absolutely any extra features. But are they really being treated by this - or are Disney and Sony instead taking fans for granted?
Avengers: Endgame & Spider-Man: Far From Home's Rereleases Both Offer Basic Bonus Features
The Avengers: Endgame rerelease was disappointing. The deleted scene featuring the Hulk was unfinished, with low quality CGI; the Hulk's mouth didn't move at all when Mark Ruffalo said his lines, and at one point he pulled out a mobile phone that was just a gray, rectangular block. Making matters worse, it was easy to see why this particular deleted scene was cut, because it didn't add anything at all to the story. The Spider-Man: Far From Home clip was less than a minute in length, and almost all of it had been shown in the trailers and TV spots. Only the Stan Lee tribute was worthwhile, and even that consisted entirely of footage Marvel Studios had used before.
All indications are that Spider-Man: Far From Home will be underwhelming as well. Sony has confirmed that the film will feature four minutes of new footage, including a "never-before-seen action sequence." It's reasonable to assume that this is a montage that director Jon Watts has described as "Peter's To-Do List", which was all set before the wall-crawler headed out on his European vacation. It includes a number of scenes from the trailers, such as Peter Parker heading to Delmar's Deli, pawning his Star Wars toys for cash, picking up his passport, and stopping some crooks. Watts had already confirmed that all this footage was pretty much complete, but had been cut because it distracted from the film's themes.
In both cases, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have followed the same pattern. They've chosen to rerelease the films towards the end of their theatrical runs, with some cheap extras. Contrast this with James Cameron's Avatar rerelease, for example; it came eight months after its theatrical debut, and over four months after its release on DVD and Blu-ray. It featured nine minutes of additional footage, with Cameron spending $1 million on each minute in order to complete the scenes' CGI, and the Avatar rerelease remained in cinemas for 12 weeks. The rereleases of both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home look set to be underwhelming in comparison.
Marvel's Rereleases Are About Box Office
Given neither Marvel Studios nor Sony Pictures seem to be putting much effort into these rereleases, why are they happening? The answer is less to do with wanting to please the fans, than it is to do with performing well at the box office. It all started with Marvel's ambition to get in the history books with Avengers: Endgame. The studio was determined to beat Avatar's global record, and make their film the highest-grossing movie of all-time. The irony is that this is quite an arbitrary target; that record doesn't take inflation into account, and Marvel won't hold it for long anyway. Disney is sure to rerelease Avatar ahead of its sequel, and the final gap is so narrow that it will certainly claim the crown back.
Meanwhile, Sony's motives are just as financially-driven for Spider-Man: Far From Home. In this case, the film is already the highest-grossing Spider-Man film to-date, but Sony is aiming at a domestic accomplishment. They want this to be the first Spider-Man movie to break $400 million at the domestic box office. That's why Spider-Man: Far From Home is just being rereleased in the United States, not overseas. Sony may be a separate company, but they're following Marvel's pattern, and for almost exactly the same reason.
Will Marvel (& Others) Continue Doing This For New Movies?
The truth is that any studio only rereleases a film if they think it will be a profitable decision. The issue, however, is whether or not the rerelease can also be justified in creative terms. That was undeniably the case with Avatar, where nine minutes of expensive additional footage gave viewers a real incentive to turn up. That wasn't the case with Avengers: Endgame, and it's unlikely to be true with Spider-Man: Far From Home as well. Both Marvel and Sony are risking taking advantage of their fan bases, and that's a dangerous mistake to make.
It's entirely possible rereleases will become the norm rather than the exception in the superhero genre going forward; they appear to be a successful strategy, and both Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures look set to achieve their respective goals thanks to these rereleases. However, if studios are indeed going to embrace rereleases to a greater degree than before, they need to take a much more thoughtful approach. They don't necessarily need to try to beat James Cameron's target, with each minute costing $1 million, but they do need to ensure they have quality material to make the rereleases worth it. Perhaps that will require planning the rereleases in advance, deliberately holding certain content back; or else carefully going through deleted scenes and figuring out what could be used. Anything else risks damaging the relationship between the studios and their fans; and even Marvel Studios can't afford to take their fan base for granted.