Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is swinging to the rescue.
Tom Holland’s newest web-slinging adventure “Spider-Man: No Way Home” hits theaters on Friday and is poised to generate $150 million in its box office debut — a heroic feat even by pre-COVID standards. The film’s distributor Sony Pictures modestly predicts a three-day tally closer to $130 million, which would still rank as a huge win. But given pent-up demand and record pre-sales, some box office prognosticators are more bullish. They believe an opening weekend near $175 million could be within reach.
At the very least, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” looks to be the first pandemic-era movie to cross $100 million in a single weekend, an achievement that felt more like a distant dream this time last year. Only one film, Sony’s comic book sequel “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” has come close to hitting that benchmark, with initial revenues at a still-impressive $90 million domestically. Movie theater attendance has stalled in recent weeks, so the comic book adaptation presents the best chance yet to bring audiences back to cinemas during the holiday season. But the emergence of Omicron could stifle ticket sales — even Spider-Man may not be a match for the new variant.
Notably, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ticket sales should even be reminiscent of pre-pandemic times. Should estimates hold, “No Way Home” will not only notch the biggest debut since 2019, it’ll rank as the best start for Holland’s Spider-Man trilogy after 2017’s “Homecoming” opened to $117 million and 2019’s “Far From Home” bowed to $92 million. There’s a chance it could beat 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” starring Tobey Maguire, which opened to $151 million (not adjusted for inflation) and still stands as the biggest Spider-Man opening weekend in history.
“To reach $100 million or more in a single weekend for the first time during the pandemic, which this movie is likely to far exceed, would be a big win for theater owners and mark another step in the long-term box office recovery process,” says Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Box Office Pro.
The $200 million-budgeted “Spider-Man” is especially vital to the theater business because the character is popular around the globe. “Homecoming” hit $880 million at the worldwide box office, while its follow-up “Far From Home” glided past the $1 billion mark. “No Way Home” doesn’t yet have a release date in China, which was a huge market for “Homecoming” ($116 million) and “Far From Home” ($198 million). Without China, the latest adventure could struggle to reach $1 billion. So far, there hasn’t been a movie since the onset of COVID-19 to attain those box office heights. Two local Chinese movies, “The Battle at Lake Changjin” ($902 million) and “Hi, Mom” ($822 million), have come the closest. In terms of Hollywood movies, MGM’s James Bond sequel “No Time to Die” is the biggest earner with $771 million worldwide.
Robbins believes that “Spider-Man” could eventually cross the $1 billion mark. However, he adds that “…the absence of China will be notable. Even then, we have to be cognizant of the pandemic and how different markets are recovering at various paces while the Omicron variant also presents a new complication around the world.”
Directed by Jon Watts, the third chapter in Holland’s trilogy takes place after Peter Parker’s identity is revealed to the world, upending the lives of his girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Desperate to restore a drop of normalcy, Peter asks for help from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and accidentally unleashes a multiverse — featuring plenty of villains from past Peter Parker timelines. In a crossover event of epic proportions, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Otto Octavius drop by to wreak havoc and torment Spider-Man.
Critics have embraced “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” with The Daily Beast’s Nick Schager calling it “the MCU’s best Spidey movie by a mile” and Variety’s Peter Debruge describing the film as a “satisfying meta-adventure.” In a review for Tribute Agency, film critic Katie Walsh says the movie is a “fast, loose and funny romp.” She continues, “It whips through its two hour, 28 minute runtime at a breakneck pace, though it takes it’s time to breathe in the emotional moments. Turns out it’s a good thing when our Spider-Man flicks gain sentience, because it doesn’t get much more fun than this at the movies.”
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” will undoubtedly crush its competition, but it won’t be the weekend’s only new nationwide release. Searchlight Pictures is opening “Nightmare Alley,” a neo-noir psychological thriller from Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”). Adapted from William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel, the story follows an ambitious carny (Bradley Cooper) who teams up with an equally dangerous corrupt psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett). Along with Cooper and Blanchett, the star-studded cast includes Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara and Mary Steenburgen. Debruge, who also reviewed “Nightmare Alley” for Variety, called the movie a “bravura carnival noir” and praised del Toro for assembling “a dream ensemble.”