‘Spider-Man' swings even higher at North American box office

Lindsay Bahr
Associated Press

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” now holds the title for the second-biggest opening weekend ever, behind only “Avengers: Endgame.”

Weekend grosses for the third Tom Holland Spider-Man came in even higher than expected, netting out with $260 million from ticket sales in North America, Sony Pictures said Monday. It’s also the best opening weekend ever for Spider-Man films, Sony Pictures and the month of December.

Tom Holland, left, and Benedict Cumberbatch in Columbia Pictures' "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

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While the extra push Sunday put “No Way Home,” ahead of “Avengers: Infinity War," which opened to $257.7 million in April 2018, it’s still a ways behind “Avengers: Endgame," which debuted to $357.1 million in April 2019.

The stellar opening was a much-needed win for the theatrical exhibition business, which has struggled during the pandemic. Until “Spider-Man” came along, no film in the pandemic era had opened over $100 million.

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Zendaya, left, and Tom Holland in Columbia Pictures' "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

Directed by Jon Watts, “No Way Home” picks up with Holland’s Peter Parker grappling with the world finding out about his superhero identity, and features Zendaya, Marisa Tomei and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. The promise of spoiler reveals only added to the feverish hype that led to lines and sell-out showings across the country.

“For the target audience, this is absolute must-see, required viewing,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “There is no way fans were going to opt out because of omicron.”

Many moviegoers also shelled out top dollar to see the film on the biggest screens possible. According to IMAX, an estimated $36.2 million of the global total is from their large format screens.

“'Spider-Man: No Way Home’ is an exclamation point on the comeback we’ve seen at the box office in 2021," said Rich Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. “With these historic results, IMAX continues to see blockbuster releases generate box office at or exceeding pre-pandemic levels."

And it's not just fans who have been giving the film good marks: Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive as well. It has a 94% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Holland on Instagram thanked audiences for the record numbers.

“You made this possible. Your love and support means the world to me,” Holland wrote on Saturday. “Thank you thank you thank you and if you haven’t seen Spider-Man no way home yet… merry Christmas and you know what to do.”

Before this weekend, Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” held the record for best opening of the pandemic with $90.1 million.

But it wasn’t all celebrations at the box office this weekend. In Spider-Man’s wake were some high-profile casualties, including Guillermo del Toro’s star-studded “Nightmare Alley,” which grossed a mere $3 million from 2,145 theaters. It opened in fifth place behind “Spider-Man,” “Encanto" ($6.5 million), “West Side Story” ($3.4 million) and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife" ($3.4 million).

“Nightmare Alley” had prestige and awards buzz behind it, with a cast including Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, but a week after Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” underwhelmed, it’s a stark reminder of moviegoing realities during the pandemic and the power of the Marvel fanbase.

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In the one-movie-takes-all environment, more often than not, that one movie has been a Marvel movie. Including “No Way Home,” Marvel releases will make up five of the top six films of the year, including “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “Black Widow” and “Eternals.”

And lest anyone was holding onto hopes that “West Side Story” would have a profitable “Greatest Showman” run after its lackluster start, the 20th Century Studios release fell 67% in its second weekend in theaters, bringing in only $3.4 million.

But Spider-Man could also help the industry at large as it heads into 2022.

“It’s almost hard to describe how important this debut is to an industry that was beset with one of the biggest challenges in its history in the pandemic,” Dergarabedian said. “To have this resounding mandate in favor of the movie theater experience as expressed in these numbers that even just a few months ago were unthinkable makes this a watershed moment for movie theaters that I think will be discussed for decades.”