The number of webslingers in ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ may make your head spin, but did you know there are a lot of them? versions of Sony’s blockbuster “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” in theaters?
Hawk-eyed (and owl-eared) viewers started to pick up on the different cuts. Andy Leviton, the associate editor of the “Spider-Verse” films, wondered why it took so long. On Twitter, Leviton wrote: “I was wondering when people might start to notice…”
Not all of us edited the film, Andy!
We are noticing it now though. Giddy fans and fan sites immediately started compiling the differences in sound (including dialogue) and animations between the two versions. But don’t call these eggs Easter; what started to become quite obvious in our conversations with sources is that two different projected prints were not the intended plan or the desired outcome.
So, ah, what’s up?
Here’s what happened: Sony shipped the international version of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” early for translation purposes, a person close to the production told IndieWire. It’s normal.
What’s up Not common is that many of the last-minute changes failed to make it from the Los Angeles editing lab to the screened international version of the film. This could be due to not updating a first printing for translation purposes only, or simply a good ol’ fashion that is running out of time to meet a deadline. But which? This was one of our many questions to Sony, although we didn’t get an immediate answer.
While “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” opened June 2 with a whopping $120 million opening weekend, some moviegoers complained they couldn’t hear the dialogue in the first scene. Sony has fixed the problem with an updated version. At the time, writer/producer Phil Lord said it was a problem with the volume levels of movie theaters. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” has been mixed on Volume 7, Lord wrote on Twitter. Some theaters may not have received (or read) the memo.
“Listened to several theaters this weekend at 7 and they sounded great,” Lord tweeted a week later. “All dialogue clear.”
Another piece that is currently unclear (we asked) is whether Sony’s updated pressings meant to correct the volume issue reflected the update that finally split the (old) international press with the current (new) domestic press . The multiverse is confusing.
Also a bit obscure: how many of the people who pointed out the differences actually watched the film – intently – both in a theater in the United States and again in another country, all in the three weeks this “Spider- Verse”? Unfortunately, piracy probably explains much of this.
Among the questions we sent Sony was whether it was possible that the out-of-date international version was (or was) being screened in some places in the US. We also contacted Lord’s personal representative, but received no immediate response.
Knowing how this generally works, here’s how it probably turned out. A film distributor, in this case Sony, delivered a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) to a purchasing agent in each territory. That agent then delivered the package to individual theaters.
By the way, don’t let “digital” fool you – many DCPs are still delivered in a physical package. A DCP can also be delivered via satellite or terrestrial means, if the conditions (the physical location of a theater and its surroundings) are favourable. There are clear advantages to satellite delivery, including speed. Here’s another one that becomes obvious: A satellite-delivered DCP is much easier to update. Our source close to production told us that the international version is unlikely to be replaced with updated animations/sounds.
Physical delivery takes time, even nationwide. Typically, DCPs would arrive at a theater the day before a movie premiere. Internationally, not only do physical DCPs have to cover more geographic (and air and sea) area, they also have to clear customs. As anyone who has ever traveled with a passport will tell you, customs can take some time. “Spider-Verse” sacrifices were made.
While this is all new to Film Twitter, don’t feel out of the loop — it’s also new to film distribution executives. IndieWire approached three distribution executives about this story and none were aware of the different versions of “Across the Spider-Verse”. Each said it is extremely rare for a film to be updated once engagement with audiences begins.
Additional reporting by Bill Desowitz and Tom Brueggemann.