Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is here to save the pandemic box office.
Opening weekend estimates for “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which swung into U.S. theaters on Friday, were a stunning $253 million in ticket sales — far above the $130 million to $200 million range based on ticket presales.
The third movie in the Disney DIS, +0.01% and Marvel “Spider-Man” trilogy, which was co-produced with Sony SONY, -0.88%, again stars Tom Holland in the webslinger’s suit. The release wasn’t just the biggest box-office opening for a “Spider-Man” franchise, it was Hollywood’s biggest opening weekend of the entire pandemic, and the third-best opening gross ever, trailing only the opening weekends of “Avengers: Endgame” ($357.1 million) and “Avengers” Infinity War” ($257.7 million).
It earned $50 million in Thursday previews alone, Variety reported. And AMC Theatres AMC, +19.10% said that the film had already broken AMC box-office records for December by Friday morning, with about 1.1 million people seeing it at AMC cinemas. Overseas attendance “was also robust,” said AMC.
Sony had predicted that the movie would net at least $130 million at 4,325 locations, Deadline reported, after tempering its expectations in light of rising COVID-19 cases and concerns over the omicron variant. But some more optimistic analysts like BoxOffice.com had suggested that the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film could take home closer to $200 million.
But it blew those estimates away.
“This weekend’s historic ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ results, from all over the world and in the face of many challenges, reaffirm the unmatched cultural impact that exclusive theatrical films can have when they are made and marketed with vision and resolve,” Tom Rothman, Sony Pictures Chairman and CEO, said in a statement Sunday.
“‘It’s going to be a big movie; it’s just a matter of how big.’”
— Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com
“The momentum for ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is already so big that it can’t fail,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, told MarketWatch last week. “It’s going to be a big movie; it’s just a matter of how big.
Here are six reasons why “Spider-Man: No Way Home” smashed expectations:
It’s a Marvel movie. Enough said.
The MCU was box-office gold before the pandemic, with 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” smashing box office records with a $1.2 billion opening weekend worldwide, including some $350 million in ticket sales domestically.
And Marvel movies have continued to be money-makers despite COVID concerns, such as “Black Widow,” which earned Disney $80 million in theaters and $60 million from streaming in July. It set a pandemic box office record at the time. Then “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” set a Labor Day weekend record by earning $71.4 million in ticket sales. Even “Eternals,” which received mixed reviews and became the first MCU movie to score as “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes, opened with a solid $71 million last month.
“What we’ve seen, even during the pandemic, is that the strongest movies that play at the box office are Marvel films,” Jeff Bock, senior media analyst at Exhibitor Relations, told MarketWatch last week. “These are films people will go out and see, regardless of the possibility of getting sick.”
It’s the conclusion of a trilogy with pent-up demand.
MCU “Spider-Man” fans have been climbing the walls to see what happens to Peter Parker and his super alter-ego since the cliffhanger ending of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in summer 2019. And this third film is expected to complete a story arc for Holland’s leading (spider) man and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and love interest MJ (Zendaya) that began with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” in 2017. (Or perhaps more accurately, “Captain America: Civil War” in 2016, when Holland debuted as Spider-Man in a supporting role.)
“What we’re seeing with ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is a conclusion to a very successful trilogy, and a real meaty MCU film,” said Bock. “We’re not sure if all of these characters that we like are going to return again.”
What’s more, the other movies that have come out recently have been fairly underwhelming, so moviegoers are looking forward to something epic. “The last couple of weeks at the box office have seen some low grosses,” added Bock. “And usually when a Marvel movie opens after a couple of pathetic weeks, we see a huge wave — although we don’t know how omicron is going to affect walk-up business yet.”
Plus it’s a crossover, multiverse event.
Remember back in 2019, when it was unclear whether Sony and Disney would be able to reach a deal to keep Spider-Man (whose franchise rights are owned by Sony) fighting alongside Disney’s Avengers? Well, the rival studios not only buried the hatchet to keep Holland’s Spidey in the MCU — their deal also opened the door for some actors from Sony’s 2000s-era “Spider-Man” movies directed by Sam Raimi to join the new film. So villains such as the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina) from the Tobey Maguire-era “Spider-Man” movies appear in “No Way Home.” And the multiverse storyline has got fans on the edge of their seats and speculating which other former “Spider-Man” stars might make a cameo.
“This is arguably the biggest event movie that’s come out in over two years, since before the pandemic,” said Robbins. “When the first trailer was released, it ignited a big wave of social media buzz and kick-started curiosity about where the franchise is going. And it’s very clear the multiverse is opening up, which is something Marvel has been teasing.”
Fans are desperately afraid of spoilers.
Avoiding movie and TV spoilers is a tall order in the digital age, when key plot points and surprise cameos are posted on Twitter faster than you can say “hashtag.” In fact, so many Spider-Man fans were tweeting about muting or deleting their Twitter TWTR, -0.14% accounts until after they saw the new movie that #DeletingTwitter was trending on Tuesday morning.
Sony Pictures even tweeted a PSA on Monday warning audiences that, “If you want to be extra safe, stop reading comments, mute keywords, and start staying off social media today!” (It also urged viewers to head to theaters to see the movie before someone spoiled it for them, surprise surprise.)
“Everyone wants to stay away from spoilers,” said Bock. And the best way to avoid having a movie spoiled for you, besides perhaps living under a rock, is to go and see it for yourself first.
Spider-Man is among the most popular superheroes ever.
The MCU isn’t the only box office draw. Stan Lee’s Spider-Man has been a beloved comic book character since the 1960s. And movies featuring the webslinger have largely been box office hits, beginning with 2002’s “Spider-Man” starring Maguire, which made $825 million globally, running up to 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which earned $1.13 billion globally.
Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
What’s more, this movie might not just wrap up MCU’s “Spider-Man” trilogy — teasers and trailers suggest this could be a culmination of the past two decades of live-action “Spider-Man” films.
“Spider-Man is one of the most universally appealing superhero characters ever. He appeals to all ages, because everyone sees a little of themselves in Peter Parker,” said Robbins. “And there’s speculation that [‘No Way Home’] ties together 20 years of ‘Spider-Man’ movies … and I think that’s adding to the fervor, as well. It’s a generational ‘Spider-Man’ movie.”
Early reviews are positive.
The reactions and reviews coming out of the Los Angeles “Spider-Man: No Way Home” premiere this week have only served to stoke enthusiasm for the latest wall-crawler installment. And the movie boasted a 95% “fresh” rating on review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes as of Thursday afternoon.
The Los Angeles Times called it “a joyous valentine to Spider-Man movies and their fans.” The Daily Beast raved that it’s “the MCU’s best Spidey movie by a mile.” Fandango’s review dubbed it “THE BEST live-action Spider-Man movie” of all time, calling it “hilarious & heartbreaking.” Roger Ebert writes that the best parts of the movie “reminded me why I used to love comic books,” although he also noted the film is “incredibly calculated” and “a way to make more headlines.”
But even tepid or negative reviews probably wouldn’t make a difference in this case, since there is so much hype around the film. “Honestly, I think [the movie] is review proof,” said Bock. “Marvel is the most review-proof franchise in the business, besides Star Wars. The numbers are going to be huge.”
This report has been updated to reflect the weekend box-office totals as of Sunday.