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Although Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s humble comic book origins date back to 1962, the new and improved superhero has unabashedly gone 21st century. With the upcoming release of the eighth film in the franchise set to hit the big screen on Dec. 16, filmmakers and theater operators are doing everything in their mortal power to ensure that the latest iteration of this 20-year string of films is a success, and that the character still connects with contemporary audiences.

One such effort was this week’s instantly sold-out Spider-Man NFT promotion put together by AMC Theatres — the same company that recently began letting moviegoers pay for popcorn or tickets with cryptocurrency and whose stock has risen 600% after starting the year at below $2 a share.

Also see: AMC Offers Limited-Edition NFTs to Spider-Man Fans

“You were right when so many of you suggested movie-themed NFTs,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said on Twitter, crediting the movie and the theatre chain’s avid fan bases for an idea that led to all 86,000 commemorative digital images included with advance ticket purchases to sell out in a flash.

You were right when so many of you suggested movie themed NFTs. Our Spider-Man NFT is a key reason why No Way Home generated the second highest one day ticket sales in AMC’s entire history! All 86,000 NFT’s (at one per qualifying member) were fully committed by Monday afternoon. pic.twitter.com/GMO6IswMSD

— Adam Aron (@CEOAdam) December 1, 2021

While the stronger-than-expected demand for NFTs caught some by surprise, the fact that the AMC/Sony Pictures promo garnered the second-biggest one-day ticket sales in the company’s history all but guarantees there will be sequels on the NFT front as well.

And just like any good action-thriller movie, the rise and future of NFTs in the film business is itself filled with intrigue and stories that date back years, including good guys, villains and some double agents.

Streaming and the In-Theatre Problem

Aside from just hyping the release of a holiday blockbuster, the NFT promo’s link to ticket sales is pretty clever, but also born of necessity for a few reasons. First, that $2 swoon in AMC’s price was in large part the result of COVID, as the film industry stopped producing films and the viewing public stopped going to theatres. So anything that can get people to plunk down money in advance to reserve a seat in front of the big screen is a good thing.

There’s also a side plot in all of this, concerning the concurrent growth of in-home streaming during the pandemic — especially by Disney, which is uniquely poised to profit, however consumers engage with Spider-Man.

Although Sony Pictures bought the rights to make Spider-Man films from then-struggling Marvel in 1998, 10 years later Disney came in and bought out Marvel entirely for $4 billion. But here’s the weird twist: While Disney/Marvel own the character Spider-Man, as well as the marketing and merchandising rights, Sony Pictures owns the rights to make Spider-Man films through the end of this year. That means the upcoming “No Way Home” edition of the trilogy will likely be the last, further incentivizing Sony to get as many people as possible to watch the film in theatres.

So yeah, sure, on the surface the Spider-Man NFT promo appears to be little more than a super trendy idea that has sold a lot of tickets, brought attention and excitement, and garnered free news coverage about the film — and will also likely be the first of many instances where digital images are bundled with ticket purchases in the future. But just like the web-shooting character himself, an entirely different story exists beneath that iconic red hood.