‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Will Be the Year’s Biggest Hit, but It’s No Gamechanger

If Marvel's latest Spider-Man installment more than doubles the best opening in two years, it's still far short of a box-office miracle.
"Spider-Man: No Way Home"
"Spider-Man: No Way Home" was shot at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, Georgia.

Spider-Man: No Way Home” will beat “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” this weekend; the only question is by how much. Current guesses place its three-day total as $150 million. That would be the best opening weekend in two years, beating “Venom” by 67 percent.

In describing this achievement, expect to see a record use of the word “record,” especially after the initial showing for “West Side Story.” The word would be a tonic to show that theaters have a bright future.

Estimates range from $120 million-$200 million. It opens on a weekend that has become one of the year’s most important: Before 2015 and the “Star Wars” franchise reboot “The Force Awakens,” blockbusters often waited until December 25 or avoided the competitive Christmas season entirely.

Through 2019, that weekend’s lowest opening gross was also the only year that Disney vacated the slot. In 2018, “Aquaman” from Warners/D.C. Comics opened to $68 million. The four Star Wars entries between 2015-2019 opened between $155 million-$248 million.

Any opening over $150 million would place “Spider-Man” in strong company. The 2007 installment “Spider-Man 3” sold the most tickets (its adjusted opening gross is about $200 million). Adjusted, the initial 2002 film opened to around $180 million.

The 2019 entry “Far from Home” had a first weekend of $92 million — but previews began Monday. It grossed $92 million Monday-Thursday, followed by another $92 million Friday-Sunday with significant competition over the July 4 weekend.

A big opening gross for “No Way Home” followed by a strong run over the lucrative Christmas-New Year’s period would be a psychological boost and a cash infusion. So would the suggestion that it’s drawing repeat viewers.

However, few expect it to approach the total gross of “The Rise of Skywalker,” which opened this weekend in 2019 and saw a domestic run of $515 million; the rest of the December schedule took in over $800 million across their runs. Even if “Far From Home” were to total $450 million — twice as much as “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” this year’s biggest film to date — that could not compensate for this month’s shortfalls.

"Nightmare Alley"
Nightmare AlleyKerry Hayes

Guillermo Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight) also opens this weekend, vying for the far-distant #2 spot with holdovers of “WSS” and “Encanto.” Combined, expect the rest of the field to see about 25 percent of the “Far From Home” total. Competition arrives the following Wednesday; “Matrix Resurrection” (Warner Bros.) and “Sing 2” (Universal) are likely to be the holidays’ runners up.

Studios’ actions speak louder than grosses. This week, two wide releases planned for the first six weeks of 2022 saw their theatrical releases either become streaming exclusives (Disney’s “Deep Water” to Hulu) or streaming day-and-date (Universal will release “Marry Me” on the same day it becomes available to Peacock subscribers).

They’re done with the wait-and-see; studios have begun to accelerate long-term strategy changes. That’s why achieving parity for “No Way Home” would be impressive but not a gamechanger. “No Way Home” will be the weekend’s box office story in more ways than one.

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