Spidey Beats Sparrow
By David Mumpower
May 6, 2007
Entering this weekend, there had been exactly six mega-blockbusters that had managed to break the $100 million barrier in their opening weekends. There is now a seventh entrant into this exclusive club, and this one has topped the rest. Spider-Man 3, the conclusion of Sam Raimi's wildly successful comic book trilogy, has reclaimed the franchise's throne as the biggest opener of all-time. Last July, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest broke the original Spider-Man's 50-month-old record of $114.8 million by earning a whopping $135.6 million over three days. That new mark for box office excellence did not have quite as much longevity. It proved to be a placeholder, standing tall for only ten months before Spider-Man 3 could regain what Sony considered to be theirs. The latest web-slinger outing has earned an estimated $148.0 million in its first weekend, surpassing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest by 9.1%. Truly, this is the age of box office mega-weekend.
How explosive is Spider-Man 3's performance? Its Friday/Saturday two-day total of $109.8 million would be the third largest opening of all-time, edging out Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith's $108.4 million. In two days, the latest Marvel comic book adaptation has done what only the true behemoths of box office had ever managed over a full weekend. In addition, there have been exactly four occurrences of a single movie attaining $50 million worth of revenue in one day. Spider-Man 3 may claim half of these mega-box office days. It followed a $58.0 million Friday with a $51.8 million Saturday, giving the Sony release two of the three biggest revenue days in movie history.
Spider-Man 3's success is even noteworthy when gauged against this franchise's lofty standards. The $148.0 million total is one Spider-Man needed seven full days to match (and slightly exceed at $151.6 million after its first week). Spider-Man 2, which had the benefit of the July 4th holiday, reached this total in five days. So, at the rate of two days shaved off per release, I guess that the opening day numbers of Spider-Man 4 will be around $148 million. Okay, I kid, but not by much. We are seeing a staggering evolution in terms of box office behavior in 2006/2007. Cineplexes have attained new-found abilities to match virtually any consumer demand on opening weekend.
In a year of tremendous box office success for multiple releases, Spider-Man 3 is already the third largest movie of the year behind Wild Hogs and 300, with its usurping of 300's throne a mere formality. In a year where five movies have already crossed the $100 million barrier, Spider-Man 3 has just spotted the competition as much as $207 million and still wiped the floor with all of them. In fact, if estimates hold for Spider-Man 3, its $148.0 million weekend would beat the entire top ten for 69 out of the 73 (!) weekends since the start of 2006. The bar has clearly been raised for Shrek and Jack Sparrow's next outings.
Where Spider-Man 3 goes from here is the source of much conjecture. It has already taken a strong first step toward matching the domestic totals of the previous two movies in the franchise. Spider-Man 2's $373.4 million, the tenth largest total of all-time, will be "easier" to match. Spider-Man's $403.7 million, the sixth largest total of all-time, is a loftier goal. The reason why is simple. This Spidey outing is not being particularly well received. Spider-Man 3 has a fresh rating of 62% at Rotten Tomatoes, significantly lower than Spider-Man's 90% as well as Spider-Man 2's 93%. For whatever reason, Sam Raimi has lost his touch a bit in his attempt to tie up the trilogy's arc of Shakespearean storylines. This creates concern about the longevity of Spider-Man 3. Word-of-mouth has carried the previous two outings to more than $250 million each after their first three days of box office. Similar holdover appeal cannot be ceded to Spider-Man 3, particularly given the singularly unique strength of upcoming summer releases.