Why ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’s Box Office Prospects Just Got Brighter

Spider-Man: No Way Home earned another $8.16 million, dropping 53% from its previous Monday and pushing its 18-day domestic cume to $621.77 million. That’s above Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($620 million in 2017 from a $220 million debut weekend) to place Sony and Marvel’s superhero sequel as the ninth biggest domestic grosser (sans inflation) of all time as it zooms past The Avengers ($623 million in 2012 from a $207 million opening weekend) sometime today. Barring a collapse, it should end the weekend past Jurassic World ($652 million/$208 million in 2015) and Titanic ($658 million counting reissues), with Avengers: Infinity War ($679 million/$257 million in 2018), Black Panther ($700 million/$202 million in 2018) and maybe Avatar ($760 million/$77 million in 2009) next on tap.  

I’s going to almost certainly end up the fourth-biggest domestic grosser of all time. A normal rate of descent suggests $725 million domestic finish (which would be day 18-onward legs like The Last Jedi), good enough to be the 25th biggest grosser when adjusted for inflation. Presuming it legs out like Disney’s December-released Star Wars movies, it’s looking at a domestic total between $704 million (if it legs from day 18 onward like The Rise of Skywalker) and $777 million (if it legs like The Force Awakens). However, looking at the landscape as it exists, especially with Morbius being moved from January 29 to April 1, Spider-Man: No Way Home is going to have competition closer to James Cameron’s Titanic than J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens.  

The Kate Winslet/Leonardo DiCaprio romantic action drama steamrolled past three months’ worth of theatrical competition for a (sans the 2012 3-D reissue) $600 million domestic total (from a $28 million opening weekend) partially because the competition was mostly small-scale studio programmers, studio dumps and “not a big deal” movies we often saw in January and February before Hollywood tried to start scheduling tentpoles year-round. All due respect to some very good movies that drowned in the wake of Titanic’s unsinkable voyage (#neveranabsolution), the likes of Dark City, Wild Things, Deep Rising, Fallen, Primary Colors and Zero Effect were unlikely to break out even sans unprecedented competition. Save for a few comparative biggies (The Wedding Singer and U.S. Marshals), Titanic steamrolled over a slew of small-scale movies.  

The Force Awakens faced Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Revenant ($184 million/$37 million) and Ride Along 2 ($90 million domestic from a $41 million Fri-Mon debut). The Last Jedi had to contend with two shockingly popular Christmas releases. The Greatest Showman ($184 million from a $13.5 million Wed-Sun debut) and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ($404 million/$56 million Wed-Sun) both earned more money in 2018 ($235 million and $125 million) than Star Wars VIII ($103 million). Rogue One faced two huge breakout Oscar contenders, La La Land ($151 million) and Hidden Figures ($169 million). Rise of Skywalker faced 1917 ($159 million/$37 million) and Bad Boys for Life ($204 million/$72 million Fri-Mon). Even Avatar just had to deal with The Book of Eli prior to Super Bowl weekend. 

What must Spider-Man: No Way Home contend with between now and The Batman? I’ll be thrilled if Scream is A) better than the last two entries and B) performs closer to Scream 3 ($89 million domestic) than Scream 4 ($38 million domestic). The odds would be against it even pre-Covid. The 355, starring Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz and more, opens Friday. It’ll likely be the latest example of folks declaring that want a lady James Bond not showing up for the genuine article when it’s offered. And with Morbius gone, that’s it for big movies in January. I’m optimistic/idealistic for Jackass Forever and Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall on February 4, and there’s something fitting about Jackass Forever potentially being the first biggie of 2022. 

Sony would love for Tom Holland’s video game adaptation Uncharted to play like The Man in the Iron Mask (a DiCaprio-starring Three Musketeers movie that over-performed during Titanic’s initial chart-topping marathon).  I’m hopeful the Jennifer Lopez/Owen Wilson rom com Marry Me will do fine (despite being concurrently available on Peacock) over Valentine’s Day weekend. Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile would be a safer bet in pre-Covid times. There’s nothing on February 25 since nobody wanted to open a week before The Batman. If Scream and Uncharted perform as cynically expected, Moonfall plays no better than Geostorm and older audiences avoid the multiplex to the detriment of the Hercule Poirot mystery, the J-Lo rom-com and the Chastain actioner, then Spider-Man: No Way Home has little competition for two months. 

Almost all the films slated before March would have been commercial longshots pre-Covid, as much of the “go to the movies just to go to the movies” audience began shifting to streaming years ago. Even if we get two months of underperformances from the first 2022 newbies, I don’t think we’re seeing legs on par with Titanic (3.37x its day 18 total) or Avatar (2x its day-18 gross). A performance today onward on par with The Hobbit prequels, the Lord of the Rings sequels and Aquaman (all of which opened well below $100 million) would push Spider-Man: No Way Home to $795 million-$825 million domestic. A run like Fellowship of the Ring after yesterday would push Spider-Man: No Way Home just above The Force Awakens ($937 million). 

The big caveat in these optimistic scenarios (optimistic for Spider-Man and not necessarily the competition) is that it’s predicated on audiences wanting to see a movie and choosing Spider-Man: No Way Home because it’s a bigger/better choice than the rest. It’s possible audiences who have already seen Spider-Man 3 version 2.0 or don’t want to see it will ee something else or choose not to go to the movies at all. That’s especially true until Omicron infection rates start to decline over the next few weeks. The grim scenario is that Spider-Man: No Way Home plays like a Star Wars sequel and nobody shows up for the new stuff either. My cynicism suggests that as the likeliest circumstance, but I’ll be very happy if I’m wrong. 

The Tycoon Herald