Will Smith may think he owns the July 4th weekend, but he'll face an unexpected challenge next summer from a little film franchise called ''Spider-Man.'' According to trade reports, Sony announced yesterday that production delays have forced the studio to move the Spidey sequel, ''The Amazing Spider-Man'' from its long-held May 7, 2004, perch to July 2, the date that Twentieth Century Fox had called for ''I, Robot,'' starring perennial Independence Day weekend box office champ Smith.
The good news for Spider-fans: Tobey Maguire is definitely returning to play Peter Parker, despite suggestions that back problems he developed while playing a jockey in ''Seabiscuit'' could sideline him from the sequel. The delay in starting the ''Spider-Man 2'' shoot, now scheduled to begin April 12, stems from the ''Seabiscuit'' shoot running late and ending in February, not from Maguire's backaches, Variety reports.
Universal is taking advantage of Sony's Spider-move to shift its action-horror epic ''Van Helsing'' two weeks earlier to May 7. The film, in which Hugh Jackman's vampire hunter takes on Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster, is directed by Stephen Sommers, whose ''Mummy'' movies have had good luck on that same early May weekend in 1999 and 2001.
In other superhero-movie news, Warner Bros.' promised ''Batman'' resurrection, with ''Insomnia'' and ''Memento'' director Christopher Nolan at the helm, now has a screenwriter. According to Variety, it's David Goyer, who knows from bat-men, having written the movies in the ''Blade'' vampire saga. Details of the screenplay, based on an idea by Nolan, are under wraps, and no one is yet on board to play Bruce Wayne.