As the world waits for this weekend's release of Spider-Man, the question of whether it will outperform last year's $68.1m opening for The Mummy Returns, will soon turn into whether it will deliver a sustainable and lucrative franchise. looks at the legacy of comic-book adaptations.

Internet movie box-office spread betting firm Cantor index's latest US opening weekend spread was $81m - $84m, indicating a strong conviction that the movie is at least going to open with a bang.

As well as opening in the US, the film launches day-and-date in 18 countries for Columbia TriStar including: Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Jordan, Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, The Philippines, Russia, Serbia & Montenegro, Singapore, Slovenia, Taiwan and Thailand.

Among those territories waiting slightly longer for Spider-Man are Japan (May 11), Germany and Australia (both June 6), Italy (June 7), France (June 12), the UK (June 14) and The Netherlands (June 27) - many of which are giving another summer blockbuster with long-term potential, 20th Century Fox's Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones, room to breath in the market first.

With a sequel to Spider-Man already in the offing for a possible 2004 release and The Hulk (Universal), Daredevil and X2 (both 20th Century Fox) all currently slated for 2003 all eyes are on how Spider-Man performs, both this weekend and over its entire run - after all a string of high-profile titles last summer opened strongly but faded worryingly fast.

Spider-Man follows hot on the heels of another comic-book hero franchise release, Blade II. The Wesley Snipes film opens in Finland and Germany this weekend and is still playing well in many other territories, including Spain where it is currently holding the top spot having taken $4.8m after 10 days on release. Having taken $22.5m internationally to date and a further $79.4m in the US and with multiple territories still to open Blade II is well on its way to catching the worldwide take of its predecessor which managed $61.1m in the international market and $70.1m domestically.

Of course these days the most important reason for such a film to do well is its franchise potential. Tim Burton's Batman, released by Warner Bros in 1989, spawned three sequels with a total worldwide gross, for all four, of $1.3bn.

1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles saw box office of $202m which resulted in two sequels. Perhaps most famous of all the superhero films is Warner Bros' Superman: The Movie. Starring Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeve, the 1978 film grossed over $300m and was also followed by three sequels.

However, not all superhero efforts have met with equal success. Universal's 1994 release, The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin, managed just $13.85m in international markets and $32.1m domestically. Paramount's The Phantom, starring Billy Zane and Catherine Zeta Jones, scraped together just $23.5m worldwide in 1996.

Even more successful titles such as 1995's Sylvester Stallone starrer Judge Dredd ($113.5m worldwide) and 1990's Dick Tracy, directed by and starring Warren Beatty, ($162.7m) have not spawned successful franchises.

With a sequel already in the works, early positive buzz and high public awareness, Spider-Man has the makings of lucrative franchise material, but only time and box office will tell.

Recent Comic-Book Superhero Achievements At The Box Office '

Title (Year)/ US gross/ Int'l gross/ World gross

Batman (1989)/$251.2m/$162m/$413.2m

Batman Returns (1992)/$163m/$120m/$283m

Batman Forever (1995)/$184m/$151m/$335m

Batman & Robin (1997)/$107m/$130m/$237m

Blade (1998)/$70.1m/$61.1m/$131.2m

Blade II (2002)/$79.4m/$22.5m/$101.9m*

Judge Dredd (1995)/$34.7m/$79m/$113.5m

The Mask (1994)/$119.9m/$224m/$343.9m

The Phantom (1996)/$17.3m/$6.2m/$23.5m

Teenage..Turtles (1990)/$135m/$66m/$202m

The Shadow (1994)/$32.1m/ $13.9m/$46m

Superman: Movie ('78)/$134m/$166m/$300m

X-Men (2000)/$157.3m/$137m/$294.3m

' Does not include Superman 2-4.

Still on release

'to be continued (as they say in the comics)