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Spider’s in outer space

Sony's superhero tentpole bows with record $114 mil

Now that’s amazing, “Spider-Man.”

Sony’s web-slinging superhero finally leaped from comic-book pages to the silver screen this weekend, and the result was a mega-boffo bow that broke the all-time record for opening box office by 26% with an estimated $114 million over three days.

Mind-bending box office reflects both the marvelous appeal of the Marvel Comics character and the increasingly wide rollouts now possible after the spread of megaplexes. “Spidey,” which unspooled in 3,615 theaters, outpaced a $90.3 million debut for Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” that just last November had eclipsed a previous historic high.

Execs at Sony, whose Sam Raimi-helmed “Spider-Man” caps a years-long saga of franchise rights squabbles, were over the moon about webbed wonder’s bigscreen perf.

“People have asked me all weekend, ‘Are you on Cloud Nine?’ But I think I’m on about Cloud 40,” Columbia Pictures chairman Amy Pascal quipped. “I surpassed Cloud Nine on Friday.”

And “Spidey” surpassed $39 million on its first day of release — in one of many new all-time records set over the weekend.

Pic grossed $39.3 million on Friday, then jumped 11% on Saturday with $43.7 million in its second day of release. Distrib penciled in a $31 million estimate for Sunday grosses.

“There isn’t a distribution record that hasn’t been shattered this weekend,” said Jeff Blake, head of worldwide marketing and distrib at Sony.

“Spidey” also marked record grosses in some Southeast Asian markets this weekend, Blake noted.

Pic, produced for an estimated $120 million, was helped by widely positive crix reviews including kudos for topliner Tobey Maguire and a $50 million-plus marketing campaign. But Sony marketing prexy Geoff Ammer stressed that distrib — criticized for an over-zealous pre-release campaign for 1998’s “Godzilla” — tried to avoid oversaturating the marketing with “Spidey” promos.

“One of the things we all saw over the last four to five years was that if you oversaturate the marketplace with ads and other materials people feel as if they’ve already seen the movie,” Ammer observed.

Avi Arad, topper at “Spidey” franchise rights-holder and pic gross-profit participant Marvel Enterprises, said historically successful release reps “a dream come true” for corporate execs.

“We’re in the Promised Land,” Arad enthused. “When you see the Marvel brand come on the screen right after the Columbia logo and hear people applaud, it’s very satisfying. We finally have a seat at the table.”

Marvel, now fully resurrected after a difficult bankruptcy reorg, previously licensed movies based on its “Blade” and “X-Men” properties. And 20th Century Fox is set to unspool a pic based on Marvel’s “Daredevil” comix in January with Ben Affleck in the title role.

“Wild” opening tame

Meanwhile, a couple other openers debuted in much more pedestrian fashion this weekend.

MGM’s Matt Dillon starrer “Deuces Wild” dealt up a disappointing $2.7 million in seventh place. And DreamWorks’ Woody Allen laffer “Hollywood Ending” began with a $2.2 million weekend, which tied for 10th with Sony’s “Panic Room” over that Jodie Foster starrer’s sixth sesh.

MGM stressed its modest investment in relatively low-cost “Deuces” but acknowledged gang-themed pic “underperformed.”

DreamWorks hopes to build on the appeal of “Ending” with older femmes in subsequent frames.

A pair of soph sesh pics struggled against the Spidey onslaught. Fox’s “Life Or Something Like It” dropped 47% in its soph sesh to an estimated $3.3 million, and New Line’s “Jason X” tumbled 54% to $2.4 mil.

In a limited bow this weekend, ThinkFilms’ Ismael Merchant-helmed drama “Mystic Masseur” grossed an estimated $20,852 from a pair of Gotham theaters. “Masseur” stretches into top-12 markets May 17.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, IFC Films laffer “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” added 10 theaters for a total 151 grossed estimated $704,090, or $4,663 per venue, over the Greek Orthodox Easter weekend. Cume reached $2.6 million with “Wedding” set to expand to 250 locations Friday.

IFC’s Spanish-lingo “Y Tu Mama Tambien” held at 282 engagements and grossed $800,237, or $2,838 per playdate. Laffer’s cume moved to $8.4 million with an expansion to 310 runs set for next weekend.

And Manhattan Films’ “Enigma” added 12 theaters for a total 39 and grossed $233,218, or $5,954 per venue. Suspenser’s cume reached $651,388.

Frame up 49%

Industrywide, weekend’s $165 million in total grosses repped a 49% improvement over the same frame a year ago, according to data from B.O. tracker ACNielsen EDI. Major gain comes despite a comparison with a $68.1 million bow a year ago for Universal’s “The Mummy Returns.”

Year-to-date, 2002 is 16% ahead of the same portion of last year at a total $2.77 billion.

Two wide releases are skedded for the weekend ahead — Sony laffer “The New Guy” and Fox suspenser “Unfaithful.” Then comes the highly anticipated bow of Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” on May 16.

“It’s scary great how well the summer should perform judging from this start,” EDI exec veep Dan Marks said.

Releases over the Memorial Day weekend — summer’s first official sesh — include high-profile DreamWorks tooner “Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron,” Warners suspenser “Insomnia” and Sony’s Jennifer Lopez starrer “Enough.” Trailer for the Sony pic was among ones distrib pushed at “Spidey” showings this weekend.