The domestic box office may have finally found a hero.
Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swings into theaters once more this weekend and promises to deliver big gains for the movie theater industry. Conservative estimates suggest “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Tom Holland’s third solo run as the iconic webslinger, will top the $100 million mark over its three-day debut, but co-producer Sony projects the film will tally closer to $130 million.
″‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ isn’t just the most anticipated movie of the holiday season, it’s the most anticipated movie of the year,” said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “As we’ve seen from countless other superhero flicks in 2021, audiences will not only break the box office opening weekend, but have legs for months.”
″$100 million is a done deal. $150 million may be within its grasp,” Bock said.
Any figure over $100 million would be a milestone for the pandemic era, as the current record holder for highest opening is the $90 million haul Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” pulled in back in October.
Holland’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” secured $117 million during its three-day opening in 2017 and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” stuck a $92 million landing in 2019, according to data from Comscore. Currently, the highest-grossing Spider-Man flick is 2007′s “Spider-Man 3” featuring Tobey McGuire in the titular role.
More optimistic box office analysts suggest that the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film could top $200 million. Of course, the pandemic box office has been incredibly difficult to predict and indicators, like advanced ticket sales, have not been as accurate in determining an opening weekend haul as they were in previous years.
The domestic box office has rebounded from historic lows in 2020, but has yet to reach the same levels seen prior to the pandemic. While many movie theaters have instituted mask mandates, not all audiences have felt comfortable returning to cinemas. Films aimed at older audiences like “No Time to Die,” “House of Gucci,” “The Last Duel” and “West Side Story” have not been able to draw in moviegoers.
Franchise films, on the other hand, have been a major draw for audiences — particularly those that target the 18- to 40-year-old demographic.
Kicked off by “F9” and “Black Widow,” the domestic box office has made gains in 2021 and there is hope that 2022 will continue those trends with films like “The Batman,” “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness,” and “Jurassic World: Dominion.”
The MCU has a solid track record at the box office and lands in a demographic sweet spot, continuing to entice younger audience members to head to cinemas as well as other generations who have been keeping up with the franchise for over a decade.
Add in a charismatic Holland in the lead role and months of conjecture about which characters might appear in the film and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has a perfect storm of factors that could lead it the highest box office gains of the pandemic era.
″‘No Way Home’ has already captured the cultural zeitgeist and it isn’t even out yet,” said Shawn Robbins, chief media analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Films like that are a rare breed because they drive intense enthusiasm and rampant speculation for months, and sometimes years.”
Like 2019′s “Avengers: Endgame,” fans will likely arrive in droves to movie theaters this weekend to see the film in order to avoid spoilers.
“The film is promising gigantic stakes and a very unique hook that could forever change the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Robbins said.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. Universal released “No Time To Die” internationally while MGM handled its domestic release. Universal is also the distributor of “F9,” “House of Gucci” and “Jurassic World: Dominion.”