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‘Spider-Man’ swings to massive $120.5M opening

by DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE PRESS SERVICES | June 9, 2023 at 1:53 a.m.

NEW YORK -- "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" opened in U.S. and Canadian theaters with a massive $120.5 million, more than tripling the debut of the 2018 animated original and showing the kind of movie-to-movie box-office growth that would be the envy of even the mightiest of Hollywood franchises.

Sony Pictures Animation's "Across the Spider-Verse," the multi-verse spinning animated Spider-Man spinoff, sailed way past expectations, according to studio estimates Sunday, riding terrific reviews (95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and strong buzz for the hotly anticipated follow-up to the Oscar-winning "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."

In the sometimes formulaic realm of superhero movies, 2018's "Into the Spider-Verse" offered a blast of originality, introducing a teenage webslinger from Brooklyn, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore ), a punk-rock Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) and a host of other Spider-People. It premiered with $35.4 million on its way to $384.3 million worldwide.

"Across the Spider-Verse," which exponentially expands the film's universe-skipping worlds, cost $100 million to make, about half the cost of the average live-action comic-book movie. So at even the forecast $80 million that "Spider-Verse" had been expected to open, "Across the Spider-Verse" would have been a hit.

Instead, it has turned out to be a box-office sensation, and the second largest domestic opening of 2023, trailing only "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." "Across the Spider-Verse," directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson, even topped "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," which debuted with $118 million, for best opening weekend of the summer so far.

The film, shepherded by writer-producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, is part two in a trilogy that will conclude with a third chapter to be released next year. "Across the Spider-Verse" over-performed abroad, too, with $88.1 million overseas.

"First of all, you never want to underestimate Spider-Man," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

"And you never want to underestimate the power of a PG-rated animated film to draw a huge audience. ... This combines two genres: animation and superhero. And that's pretty irresistible. And the PG rating gives it the ability to draw in an even younger crowd to the Spider-Man universe."

Dergarabedian believes the combined box-office success of "Spider-Verse," "Super Mario Bros." and "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" -- which has raked in hundreds of millions for Universal since its December debut -- proves that the animated family film is a force to be reckoned with.

"I think we're looking at a renaissance period for PG-rated animated films -- a genre and rating that perhaps has been marginalized ... or underestimated in the past," Dergarabedian said.

"With the pandemic, I think a lot of people thought, 'Well, families aren't going to go to the unsafe environment of a movie theater.' ... But certainly they are back."

After few family offerings for much of the first half of 2023, theaters are suddenly flush with kid-friendly entertainment. May 26's top film, the Walt Disney Co.'s live action remake "The Little Mermaid," slid to second with $40.6 million in it second weekend.

After debuting with $95.5 million and $117.5 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, "The Little Mermaid" dipped 57%, partly due to the formidable competition from "Across the Spider-Verse."

Having cost a reported $250 million to make, "The Little Mermaid" was met with mixed reviews but more enthusiasm from audiences, who gave it an "A" CinemaScore. But overseas, where previous Disney live-action remakes have thrived, is proving harder territory this time. The film added $42.4 million internationally over the weekend.

Disney also supplied the weekend's top counter-programming option in "The Boogeyman," a mostly well-received horror adaptation of a Stephen King short story. Director Rob Savage's $35 million film, starring Sophie Thatcher and Chris Messina, had originally been intended to debut on Hulu before the studio pivoted. It opened with $12.3 million in ticket sales.

"Unremarkable adaptations of Stephen King are practically their own category, and every time interest fades in doing right by him onscreen, a hit comes along ... to inspire more attempts," writes film critic Robert Abele for The Times.

"But the resulting expansion falls prey to that iffiest of modern-day horror movie conventions: an 'opening up' narrative that too often feels like a shutting down of what's truly scary."

In limited release, the Sundance breakout film "Past Lives" premiered with an impressive $58,067 per-screen average on four screens. Celine Song's directorial debut stars Greta Lee as a woman torn between a childhood friend from Korea (Teo Yoo) and her American husband (John Magaro).

Paramount Pictures' "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" opens in wide release today.

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