Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Spider-Man 3 Demolishes Records in Historic Debut

by | May 6, 2007 | Comments

In the most lopsided box office victory in history, the hugely anticipated super sequel "Spider-Man 3" swung into theaters and monopolized the marketplace breaking the all-time records for both opening day and opening weekend in the process.

Sony unleashed its summer behemoth worldwide and also shattered the record for the biggest global debut ever as it conquered the box office in over 100 countries. The summer movie season could not have asked for a better way to begin.

Following a tidal wave of hype, "Spider-Man 3" exploded on the scene and grossed an eye-popping $148M during its opening weekend in North America, according to estimates, breaking the previous record of $135.6M set last summer by "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest." The super hero flick opened in 4,252 theaters (also a record) and averaged a staggering $34,807 for Sony. The smash hit also set a new Imax record with $4.8M from those large-format engagements beating 300’s old mark set two months ago by 33%. Imax presentations, despite their higher ticket prices, were reportedly sold out from coast to coast.

Overseas, "Spider-Man 3" began its global assault on Tuesday May 1 in several key nations in Asia and Europe and has since grossed a mammoth $227M from 105 international territories putting its worldwide cume at a gargantuan $375M in a mere six days. In less than one week around the world, "SM3" has already reached nearly half of the total global gross of "Spider-Man 2" which hauled in $784M in 2004.

Domestically, the new webslinger adventure kicked things off on Friday with a record $59.3M in its first day beating the former record "Chest" set with $55.8M. Both figures included shows beginning at midnight on Thursday night. "Spidey" dropped 14% on Saturday to $51M and the studio estimated that Sunday sales will fall by only 26% to $37.7M. Final figures will be released on Monday after Sunday sales are tabulated. According to Sony research, the opening weekend audience skewed towards young men as expected. Males made up 54% of the crowd while 63% were under the age of 25.

"Spider-Man 3" reunited director Sam Raimi with his key actors Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco. Joining the cast were Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church, and Bryce Dallas Howard. Critics had mixed feelings with many calling it the worst of the series. Part "3" scored a 62% Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com compared to 90% for the first "Spidey" flick and 93% for the second installment. Moviegoers, however, did not care as they showed up anyway in unprecedented numbers proving that "SM3" was indeed a critic-proof blockbuster. The film’s long-term success will rely more on word-of-mouth from fans, rather than a thumbs up or down from reviewers. Users of Yahoo! Movies have given it a mild B grade from over 17,000 votes which could mean that fans are not exactly ecstatic.

"Spider-Man 3" carries a reported production cost of $258M, although many industry watchers believe it to be much higher. Despite its sky high budget, the PG-13 film has enjoyed such a strong start that it has a good chance of surging past the $822M worldwide gross of the first "Spider-Man" and could even approach the $1 billion mark. Buzz from fans will of course be a major factor in helping the Venom pic spread.

Competition, or a lack of it, was a key contributor to the record opening. There were absolutely no other films that energized audiences as every wide release failed to reach an average of even $2,000. That allowed the newest "Spider-Man" pic to account for a jaw-dropping 80% of the entire box office pie and dominate the marketplace with ease. Led almost exclusively by Peter Parker and friends, the top ten powered its way to an incredible $174M — its highest level since the "Pirates" sequel bowed last summer. It was an astonishing reversal from the previous weekend when the box office slumped to a seven-month low.

With nothing else worthy to program, multiplexes had no problem opening up screens. Sony did not report its official screen count but industry insiders note that it was over 10,000. By comparison, screen counts for previous blockbuster openers were 9,400 for "Star Wars Episode III," 8,500 for "Dead Man’s Chest," and 7,500 for the first "Spider-Man" which opened five years ago this same weekend and also broke the all-time opening weekend record. The extra screens for the new film allowed Sony to absorb all demand right away and leave almost nothing on the table.

Next weekend, "Spider-Man 3" will have little to worry about as nothing huge is opening, but the week after that is when "Shrek the Third" launches, followed seven days later by "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" over the lucrative Memorial Day holiday frame. Peter Parker will grasp tightly onto his records for now since Captain Jack Sparrow would like nothing more than to swipe them once again.

A few moviegoers did in fact choose to see other films this weekend in auditoriums which offered plenty of space. Three-time chart-topper "Disturbia" was bumped to the number two spot, but held up well considering the new competition. The Paramount thriller dropped by only 37% to an estimated $5.7M and boosted its 24-day cume to $59.9M, or about what Spidey did in its first day. New Line’s courthouse thriller "Fracture" followed with an estimated $3.4M in its third weekend, down 50%, and lifted its sum to $26.5M.

The teen horror flick "The Invisible" ranked fourth and tumbled 60% in its sophomore frame to an estimated $3.1M. Buena Vista has scared up $12.3M in ten days and looks headed for a $16-18M finish. Nicolas Cage suffered the worst drop in the top ten as his latest action film "Next" crashed 61% and took in an estimated $2.8M this weekend. With a poor ten-day tally of $11.8M, Paramount will sputter to a horrendous $14-16M for the pricey star vehicle.

The much-delayed poker drama "Lucky You" had the unlucky fortune of opening against "Spider-Man 3" and suffered an embarrassing debut as it failed to average even $1,000. The Curtis Hanson-directed pic bowed to an estimated $2.5M from 2,525 locations for a dismal $996 average. The Warner Bros. release starring Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore met with bad marks from critics and total apathy from ticket buyers.

3D toon "Meet the Robinsons" fell 49% to seventh with an estimated $2.5M in its sixth frame for an impressive cume of $91.8M. Also in its sixth weekend, fellow spring hit "Blades of Glory" collected an estimated $2.3M, down 55%, giving Paramount $111.6M to date.

The action-comedy "Hot Fuzz" tumbled 58% in its third weekend to an estimated $2.1M. Focus has grossed $16.1M thus far. Rounding out the top ten was Sony’s "Are We Done Yet?" which dropped 51% to an estimated $1.7M leading to a total of $46.1M.

A pair of well-reviewed arthouse films aimed at adult women debuted to solid results in limited release as alternatives to the Spidey action. Fox Searchlight opened its Sundance acquisition "Waitress" to an estimated $91,000 from only four theaters in New York and Los Angeles averaging a potent $22,868 per location. The Keri Russell starrer directed by the late Adrienne Shelly will expand to 21 cities on Friday for a total of 62 theaters. Cume since the Wednesday launch is $111,000. The Alzheimer’s drama "Away From Her" from actress-turned-director Sarah Polley bowed to an estimated $56,000 from four locations for a sturdy $14,000 average for Lionsgate.

A pair of underachievers fell out of the top ten this weekend. Sony’s motel terrorfest "Vacancy" dropped a steep 65% to an estimated $1.5M upping its cume to only $16.4M. The Lionsgate action pic "The Condemned" crumbled even further collapsing 72% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.1M for a weak ten-day sum of $6M. Final grosses should end up with disappointing totals of $19M and $7M, respectively.

The top ten films soared to an estimated $174.1M which was up an astounding 85% from last year when "Mission: Impossible III" opened at number one with $47.7M; and up a staggering 129% from 2005 when "Kingdom of Heaven" debuted on top with just $19.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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