Something happened this weekend that, honestly, not many of us thought could ever happen again, even if those thoughts were somewhat tempered by the new state of precautions being handled by Broadway, Saturday Night Live, and other media enterprises the last few days. But it happened, and it happened big. And while one film, one studio, and one company can hoist a victory flag, we may soon see many others wave a white one.
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)
Surely, you have heard the news: Spider-Man: No Way Home opened this weekend. Actually, it opened in theaters starting at 3:00 pm on Thursday afternoon, and by the end of the day, it had already grossed $50 million. That was the third-best preview number behind only Avengers: Endgame ($60 million) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($57 million), the two highest-grossing domestic films of all time. Through Friday night it had bested The Force Awakens with $121 million (versus $119.1 million) and trailed only Endgame ($157.4 million) for the best preview/Friday start ever. By the end of the weekend it had grossed a whopping $253 million, more in three and a half days than any other film released in 2021.
Remember last weekend when low grosses for Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story were blamed solely on COVID? The pandemic was a factor, without question. But No Way Home’s numbers are breaking records in big cities like New York and Chicago, too. What all of this continues to tell us is that some moviegoers will show up for their big IP titles, and others are more than comfortable waiting. More on that in a moment.
Every film opening to over $200 million has joined the $600 million club, a number it No Way Home has already nearly hit worldwide ($587 million without China), suggesting we could also be looking at the first film to hit the billion dollar mark since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The last Tom Holland entry, Spider-Man: Far From Home, grossed $1.13 billion in 2019 as well. With two weekends of Christmas vacation coming for schools, the only thing that can stop the film’s momentum is another worldwide shutdown. Maybe Marvel should be employing its stars to do ads to get vaccinated and boosted.
(Photo by Kerry Hayes/©20th Century Studios)
Another week, another Disney-owned Fox title that adults failed to show up for. Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley was supposed to open December 3, but due to editing delays, it was moved to go head-to-head with the new Spider-Man film. It opened in fifth place with $2.95 million. Let’s expand on that: The non-streaming follow-up to Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning Best Picture, The Shape of Water, which grossed over $63 million in 2017-18, opened to less than Chaos Walking in early March of this year, three and a half weeks before we would see the first film of the pandemic open to over $20 million. Sorry to use another Tom Holland film to pour lemon juice in the wound, but the issue here is greater than a lack of interest or a failure in marketing. A large swath of our populace has simply decided that they can wait out a 17-, 30-, or 45-day window to watch a movie in the comfort of their home without having to navigate a deadly disease or strangers who may be ignoring it.
(Photo by ©20th Century Studios)
Last week’s No. 1 – Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story – dropped back to fourth place this week with a 68% fall down to $3.4 million. So much for the film finding its audience over the upcoming holiday, at least in theaters. Again, this is not as simple as blaming Disney for not giving their adult-themed films a chance (like the “R”-rated The Last Duel and Nightmare Alley, both about morally dubious people.) We’ll certainly see them mounting an Oscar campaign for it, but could we see them getting the film into people’s homes earlier than that 45-day window? Right now that would be Jan. 23. West Side Story could be out of the top 10 by the weekend prior. With just $17.9 million after 10 days and three more films opening on Wednesday to divert attention further, the numbers suggest West Side Story will not even hit $30 million, as has been the case for every film (besides Raya and the Last Dragon) that failed to make $20 million in their first 10 days.
Disney’s Encanto, on the other hand is seeing its 30-day theatrical window come to an end this Friday, when it will appear on Disney+ for no additional cost. The animated film remained in second place this week with $6.5 million, bringing its total to over $81 million. There is still a path to $100 million, but it’s a narrow one. The film is about $5 million behind Godzilla vs. Kong at this point in its run, but it did gain nearly $2.5 million on the kaiju movie this weekend. We’ll see how much those Disney+ subscriptions affect that theatrical attendance next weekend, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Sony continues to ride with Ghostbusters: Afterlife in theaters,a and even though its numbers are down to $3.4 million in fourth place with $117.2 million to date, a run through the holiday should get the film over the $127 million of the 2016 Paul Feig film. One of the few non-IP films that showed a little life, Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, is about to pass the $45 million mark this week, though it may come up just shy of $50 million.
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)
This Wednesday we return to a familiar place in The Matrix Resurrections, though it remains to be seen whether people go back to theaters for it or stay home as one final thank you to Warner Bros. for putting their films on HBO Max all year. Can Sing 2, the sequel to the $270 million animated hit, be the next family event to break through the $60 million barrier? Do people want to see a prequel to the Kingsman films called The King’s Man? Or will they wait until Christmas to see the story of NFL quarterback Kurt Warner in the faith-based American Underdog? They can choose between that or a double dose of Denzel Washington in front of the camera in Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth (also on Apple TV+) or behind it directing Michael B. Jordan in A Journal for Jordan. None of these films will come close to dethroning No Way Home, though, which should remain the top film in the country for at least four straight weeks.
Pushpa: The Rise (2021)
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]