(CNN) — “Everybody loves a hero.” The immortal words of Aunt May from 2004’s “Spider-Man 2” ring truer than ever this weekend as audiences, Hollywood and especially theaters await the biggest film of the year.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the latest Spider-Man adventure from Sony and Marvel, opens this weekend, and is set to become the biggest opening of the year by a large margin.
The film stars Tom Holland and Zendaya as Peter Parker and MJ as they battle villains from across the Marvel multiverse. It’s projected for a $130 million opening in North America weekend, according to industry expectations. The movie brought in $50 million on Thursday night — that’s the third biggest Thursday opening ever.
It’s a remarkable milestone in a pandemic, and it signals No Way Home” will likely become the only film of the Covid era to open to a more-than-$100-million opening weekend. That number may be even severely low-balling the film’s totals, according to some analysts.
AMC Theatres’ stock soared 20% following the news of Thursday’s stellar preview.
Currently, the largest opening of the pandemic belongs to a Spider-Man nemesis, Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” which opened to $90 million in October.
Theaters desperately need some good news, as rising Covid cases threaten to keep would-be moviegoers at home.
“It means everything to theaters right now,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. “We’ve consistently pointed to how important each big movie has been for cinemas and studios throughout the pandemic this year, but ‘No Way Home’ is the most significant from a box office perspective so far.”
Look out, here comes the Spider… Men?
The film — which cost $200 million to make — is opening in more 4,300 theaters. Those theaters have scored their biggest pre-ticket sales since “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, according to Fandango. In fact, the film overloaded websites when tickets went on pre-sale last month.
Spider-Man is among Marvel’s most popular characters, the most powerful franchise in all of Hollywood. 2002’s “Spider-Man” arguably kicked off the blockbuster superhero era we’re in right now by opening to a then record $114.8 million.
Since then, films starring the character — played by multiple actors — have made more than $6.3 billion at the global box office, according to Comscore.
“Peter Parker is the every-person who anyone can identify with,” Robbins added. “That’s always made the character and his embrace of the Spider-Man persona relatable to people from all backgrounds and walks of life… Young or old, everyone can see part of themselves in Spider-Man.”
And “No Way Home” may have more than one Spider-Man.
Rumors have circulated that former Spider-Man actors — Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield — could join Holland in the new film. This would make sense since trailers for the films have shown Holland battling villains like Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus and Jamie Foxx’s Electro, who were from Maguire and Garfield’s films.
In fact, that’s pretty much the whole plot of the film. Peter Parker asks Doctor Strange to help him reset reality after Parker’s secret identity is found out. Doctor Strange obliges, reality collapses, and villains of old show up to take on the web-slinger. So if old villains show up, why not old heroes?
Rumors of previous Spider-(Mans? Men?) joining the fight have been shot down, but the possibility alone has sent fans into a nostalgic frenzy. That’s led to the type of ticket sales we’ve been seeing for the film.
“There’s an added urgency to see this specific movie for fear of being spoiled and missing out,” Robbins said. “‘No Way Home’ has truly tapped into the cultural zeitgeist in a way that no movie has for the last two years.”
With great power, comes great box office returns
This year has included many big hits, such as “A Quiet Place, Part II,” “F9: The Fast Saga” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Each of those films helped bring audiences back to theaters at a time when streaming became a dominant form of how to watch big movies and amid a ever-changing global health crisis.
“No Way Home” is exclusive to theaters, so the only way to watch it — at least for the time being — is on the big screen.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, believes that the film could be “a watershed moment” for the industry which has “been hit by perhaps the biggest challenge in its history.”
“A $100 million plus debut could mark an inflection point between the Covid-impacted era and possibly a more successful next chapter for movie theaters in 2022 and beyond,” he said.
The Omicron variant could hurt box office returns this weekend and in the weeks to come, and a portion of the potential audience may decide to wait for the film’s eventual release at home, Dergarabedian said. But he isn’t counting out “Spider-Man” fans just yet.
“Given that the film will not be available on streaming, it would be unthinkable for most fans to sit this one out and wait weeks or longer to get their Spider-Man fix,” he said.
So will “Spider-Man: No Way Home” break pandemic box office records at a time when theaters need it to the most or will audiences stay home? Tune in Sunday to find out.
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