Sony Pictures is about to face a crucial test for its highly lucrative "Spider-Man" film rights — but the studio will have to pass it without the help of the wall-crawler himself.
Next weekend, the studio aims to score the latest superhero hit with "Venom," a movie based on Spider-Man's popular rival. Sony is betting that the anti-hero can pack theaters even without an appearance by Spider-Man, who is currently tied up in a partnership with Disney/Marvel's "Avengers" franchise.
Venom first appeared in a 1988 comic issue of "The Amazing Spider-Man." The series introduced readers to Eddie Brock, a disgraced reporter who blames Spider-Man for his fall from grace and merges with a living alien costume to become a gruesome facsimile of the heroic wall-crawler.
If "Venom" falls short, it would mark a setback to Sony's path to developing a franchise featuring Spider-Man's expansive cast of characters. But if it succeeds, it would go a long way towards building goodwill with movie-goers, and boosting the prospects for future films.