What AMC’s Spider-Man site crash means for movie NFTs

Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Holland in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Holland in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
Image: Columbia Pictures
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The idea of including non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as part of a movie ticket promotion may have sounded simple enough to Sony, but things got a bit complicated when they underestimated the rising excitement around blockchain art. 

That’s what Sony and its partner AMC Theatres found out yesterday when the companies launched an advanced ticket sale for Spider-Man: No Way Home. The promotion included 86,000 Spider-Man NFTs available to early ticket buyers who were members of the theater chain’s Premiere, A-List, and Investor Connect programs. The rush to buy tickets reportedly crashed AMC’s site, as well the Fandango ticketing site.

The same initial ticket rush caused brief technical problems for Avengers: Endgame in 2019. But while Spider-Man is also a popular franchise, the frenzy around No Way Home indicates that there’s also strong interest in acquiring what may become a valuable piece of movie memorabilia on the blockchain. Following the initial ticket flurry, scalpers began selling dozens of tickets to the film for anywhere from $200 up to $25,000, prices more in line with cryptocurrency speculators than passionate movie fans. So far, only the lowest-priced tickets appear to have any real bidder interest, but many of the higher-priced auctions are still open.

Metaverse fan swag could become its most important source of future ancillary revenue

The NFT offering marks the first such attempt at pairing NFT giveaways with a major movie theater release. However, in order to acquire the NFTs, which are animated digital designs (there are 108 variations) by animation house Cub Studios, customers must have their tickets scanned at a physical theater.

Once tickets are scanned, a code will be emailed to the ticket buyer on Dec. 22 allowing that customer to redeem it on the Wax blockchain for one of the Spider-Man digital art NFTs. What makes these designs unique compared to traditional jpegs and gifs is that these digital images exist on the Wax blockchain as unique digital assets. The NFT owners can create a Wax wallet to access the Wax blockchain where the Spider-Man NFTs are logged.

Marrying offline commerce with the guarantee of potentially valuable virtual assets is a bold experiment for the two companies steeped in Hollywood tradition. But early indications are that Sony and AMC may have figured out how to leverage NFTs in a new way that drives revenue at the box office and in the metaverse. 

“This absolutely is the first step toward well known Hollywood [intellectual property] finding new ways to engage their fans,” Mike Rubin, the founder of Los Angeles-based NFT startup Dreamium Labs, told Quartz. “This signifies the early stage of experimentation by Hollywood with essentially the digital version of a collectible “movie poster.’”

Hollywood studios and creators face a growing NFT legal minefield

Hollywood is still figuring out how to coexist with and, ideally, harness NFTs. Not long after director Quentin Tarantino announced plans to sell NFTs based on his Pulp Fiction classic, Miramax, the studio behind the film, launched a lawsuit. The studio claimed Tarantino signed away “nearly all of his rights to Pulp Fiction.” The legal action also serves as a firm warning to any other film industry creators who might be tempted by NFT riches to violate contractual agreements related to popular projects. 

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Another approach involves Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, who stars in a new science fiction film called Zero Contact. That film was included in an NFT auction that earned nearly six figures, with successful bidders winning cameos in the film as well digital posters and art. Such numbers aren’t likely to inspire the biggest studios to attempt to auction off walk-on roles in their films, but the experiment could offer a new funding model for tech-savvy independent filmmakers. 

Beyond static images and 3D animations, the most likely future of Hollywood NFTs will be in the realm of gamifying these virtual assets. That’s what Warner Bros. is doing in the run-up to the Dec. 22 release of The Matrix Resurrections. The series of custom NFT characters from the world of The Matrix will also have new functions unlocked by the studio over time, giving the NFTs more interactivity and shelf life to serve as active connections to fans.  

“The next phase will be interactivity,” says Rubin, “and more personalized fan engagement with their favorite movie characters.”