Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2007: #6:
Spider-Man 3 Shatters Opening Weekend Record
By David Mumpower
December 30, 2007
"On August 23, 1939, John Cobb staked his claim at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. He broke the world's land-speed record by over 12 miles per hour. Over the next quarter century, a record that had been broken on average of once a year by different men for the past two decades stood the test of time. Only Cobb himself was able to surpass his own personal best. His land-speed times were unbeatable until September of 1963 when Craig Breedlove covered the same surface in Utah at a speed 14 miles per hour faster than Cobb had ever managed. Movie box office does not work quite the same, but in the current landscape, Spider-Man had covered similar ground to Cobb.
"The comic book adaptation's $114.8 million opening weekend in May of 2002 had stood the test of time during a period when almost all other movie exhibition records fell. Contenders such as three Harry Potter sequels, two X-Men sequels, two Star Wars prequels and Mel Gibson's epic, The Passion of the Christ, all took a run at the title. All of them failed to match the performance of Spidey despite the fact that they had ticket price inflation and many more exhibitions going for them. So, BOP cannot underscore the point that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's performance is a stunner."
This was the description I used in this very space last year in describing the shattering of the opening weekend record previously held by Spider-Man. That title's debut of $114.8 million had become the white whale of box office records to the point that even fictional movies such as Aquaman on Entourage were gunning for it. The target was that tantalizing to observers in the movie industry. Then, on July 7, 2006, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest debuted to $55.8 million on its first day. At once, we all realized that the movie needed a weekend multiplier of only 2.1 to break the record that had stood for five years (and two weeks).
Two days later, Dead Man's Chest had broken the record by over $20 million, winding up with a result 18% better, $135.6 million. The occasion seemed momentous at the time. In describing the event at the end of the year, I accidentally laid the groundwork for future events when I referenced the fact that John Cobb's record followed in the footsteps of ones that had fallen at the pace of once a year previously. Such was the case with the opening weekend record set in 2006.
As hype built for Spider-Man 3, the last title in the franchise guaranteed to star Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and be directed by Sam Raimi, discussions began about whether the (temporary) conclusion to the Spidey saga could reclaim its throne. No one knew at the time that Raimi would have Maguire breaking out the jazz hands for the final chapter, so consumers had cause for much optimism. Sure, that seems odd in hindsight, but we have learned from past box office history that the final movies in trilogies open huge. Of course, they also demonstrate great legs, but we'll get to that in a moment.