The good news is that Tobey Maguire will be back as Peter Parker in the sequel to the highest-grossing superhero film of all time. The bad news is that the film's release date has been changed from May 7, 2004 to July 2. While the Fourth of July weekend has traditionally been an excellent time to release the summer blockbuster films that Hollywood insiders now refer to as 'tentpoles,' recent history has demonstrated that films released earlier in the summer (such as the first Spider-Man film) tend to have longer runs and build up bigger grosses. Even worse for pop culture retailers, the change in the opening date for Spider-Man 2 could mark the end of a convenient convergence of a major superhero film debut and Free Comic Book Day in early May. This year for example, many comic industry insiders like Marvel EIC Joe Quesada wanted Free Comic Book Day to coincide with the release of Ang Lee's highly anticipated Hulk film in late June, rather than with the X-Men sequel in May, but retailers, including Joe Field, who originated the FCBD concept, pointed out that a May date at the start of the summer selling season makes much more sense for retailers. Perhaps one of the other Marvel films in production can be readied for an early May release in 2004, but it will face stiff competition from Van Helsing, the Universal Horror film that moved its debut up to May 7 as soon as Sony/Columbia announced that Spider-Man 2 was moving to July.
Tobey Maguire's role as jockey Red Pollard in Seabiscuit not only aggravated his back, it also delayed filming on Spider-Man 2, which Sony had planned to start shooting in January. At one point it appeared that Maguire's injured back would keep him from reprising his role as Peter Parker (see 'Will Tobey Be Back As Spidey'), though some Tinseltown cynics suggested that the 'injury' might have been a ploy to get the star a better deal for the sequel (since he signed up before it was clear that the first Spider-Man film was going to be one of the top five moneymaking films of all time). Variety slyly alluded to these suspicions in the last sentence of its report on the progress of the Spider-Man sequel: 'There was no immediate indication of how much Maguire's miracle back therapy has cost Sony.'