This weekend, Spider-Man brought audiences back to movie theaters in a way we haven’t seen in at least two years – and broke box office records in the process.
The MCU tentpole Spider-Man: No Way Home – not just the most anticipated film of the pandemic but the most anticipated since at least Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – swung into the heavens this weekend with an estimated opening weekend of $253M from 4,336 locations, including $50M from Thursday night previews, blasting beyond even the loftiest expectations heading into the frame. That’s the biggest December opening weekend of all time, besting Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ $247.97M debut frame from 2015, and the third-highest opening weekend of all time, behind only Marvel Studios stablemates Avengers: Endgame ($357.1M) and Avengers: Infinity War ($257.7M). Not to mention, it became the highest-grossing film of 2021 in a single weekend, rocketing past Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings‘ $224.54M total in just three days.
Overseas, No Way Home exploded with $334.2M from 60 markets, bringing its global total to an astonishing $587.2M for the weekend — the highest ever for Columbia Pictures and the third-highest of all time. For comparison’s sake, that opening weekend total is 72% higher than Spider-Man: Far From Home and 113% higher than Homecoming. In Western Europe, where No Way Home grossed $113M total, the U.K. was the top market with an estimated five-day total of $41.4M, the fourth-highest of all time in the country. The Latin American region grossed an estimated $79.5M, including $32.4M in Mexico, while Asia saw $74M, lead by South Korea with an estimated $23.7M. Australia grossed an estimated $18.7M (the third-largest opening ever), while in Eastern Europe, No Way Home grossed $26.9M, including $17.4M in Russia (fifth-highest opening of all time).
For more on No Way Home‘s international performance this weekend, navigate here.
No Way Home also sizzled in the IMAX format. In North America, $22M of the weekend total came from 407 IMAX screens, marking the largest domestic IMAX box office weekend ever for Sony Pictures — 47% higher than Spider-Man: Far From Home — as well as the third-highest domestic IMAX box office weekend in December and the fifth-highest of all time. It also grossed $14.2M from the IMAX format overseas, making it Sony’s largest-ever IMAX weekend. The global IMAX tally of $36.2M is the sixth-highest global IMAX weekend of all time, the third-highest in December and the highest opening weekend for any film in the format since April 2019.
“This weekend’s historic Spider-Man: No Way Home results, from all over the world and in the face of many challenges, reaffirm the unmatched cultural impact that exclusive theatrical films can have when they are made and marketed with vision and resolve,” said Sony Pictures CEO Tom Rothman in a statement. “All of us at Sony Pictures, are deeply grateful to the fabulous talent, both in front of and behind the camera, that produced such a landmark film. Thanks to their brilliant work, this Christmas everyone can enjoy the big screen gift of 2021’s mightiest Super Hero —your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”
It can’t be underscored enough: Spider-Man: No Way Home is a box office phenomenon, not just in pandemic terms but in all-time terms. Anticipation had been steadily building for the third film in the current Spider-Man cycle, buoyed by rumors and hype around possible cast additions and plot developments. The film’s success is in part a testament to the solid groundwork laid by Marvel Studios, which is peerless in terms of building excitement among the series’ massive fanbase and catering to their desires.
The weekend started off with a bang after No Way Home exploded with $50M in Thursday night previews (which began at 3 pm) followed by an opening-day gross of $121.5M – the largest December opening day in history (ahead of The Force Awakens’ $119.1M) and the second largest of all time (after Endgame’s $157.5M). Instead of being frontloaded on Thursday and Friday, the film continued playing to packed houses throughout the weekend, leading to an excellent weekend multiplier of 2.08x and finishing at the very high end of forecasts. Despite rampant news stories about the escalating spread of the Omicron variant across North America, No Way Home’s jaw-dropping performance stands as the most potent example yet of theatrical’s continued relevance when given the right title.
Reviews and word-of-mouth for No Way Home were no doubt major factors in boosting the film’s performance this weekend, as it reached the highest Rotten Tomatoes and RT Audience Scores of any live-action Spider-Man film to date — 94% and 99%, respectively (along with a perfect 5.0 rating on PostTrak from general audiences). Though not arriving with quite the same level of anticipation, this fall’s Eternals demonstrated how a lukewarm critical and audience response (47% on Rotten Tomatoes a 78% Audience Score, low for the MCU) has the capacity to sink the prospects of even a film in the widely beloved Marvel theatrical franchise. But No Way Home delivered on the buildup, and audiences responded in kind.
With this kind of enthusiasm, the sky’s the limit for No Way Home, which is now primed to capitalize on the long holiday corridor during which kids are out of school and families are gathering to celebrate the holidays. Despite the ongoing pandemic and the highly virulent Omicron variant now tightening its grip in the U.S., it’s undeniable that people are going back to the multiplex in greater numbers than we’ve seen since 2019 – and that this weekend, more of them than ever found the perfect excuse to return.
Believe it or not, there were other movies in theaters this weekend. Second place went to Disney’s Encanto, which took in an estimated $6.5M in its fourth weekend of release, a drop of 35%. The total for the animated musical now stands at $81.5M. Overseas, it grossed an estimated $7.9M from 47 territories, for a total of $94M internationally and $175.5M worldwide.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife took third place in its fifth weekend of release with an estimated $3.4M (down 52% from last weekend), for a total of $117.25M to date.
After opening to a disappointing $10.57M last weekend, West Side Story crumbled to fourth place with an estimated $3.4M in its sophomore frame – representing a dispiriting 68% drop from its debut. (It also took in $2.1M overseas for an international total of $9.1M and a global tally of $27.1M. Though hopes were high that the Disney/20th Century Studios title would boast strong legs in subsequent weeks owing to Oscar talk, the film’s presence on numerous end-of-year top 10 lists and the lucrative holiday corridor, it clearly isn’t registering with a wide enough swath of the moviegoing audience. Though No Way Home’s presence in the marketplace no doubt siphoned away at least some of its potential audience this weekend, the precipitous drop unfortunately tells a much more downbeat tale: that audiences simply weren’t all that interested in the film to begin with. Its total stands at $18M.
Not that you’d know it from the overwhelming cultural footprint of No Way Home, but there was another film that opened in wide release this weekend: Nightmare Alley, the latest project from director Guillermo del Toro. Based on the novel of the same name (which spawned an earlier 1947 adaptation starring Tyrone Power), the Searchlight Pictures release opened in fifth place to a mild $3M from 2,145 locations. Despite an all-star cast that boasts the likes of Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett and mainly positive reviews, the psychological thriller set in the world of carnivals simply couldn’t gain a foothold amid the No Way Home tidal wave. Men made up 56% of the opening weekend audience, while 57% were 35 or older.
In sixth place, United Artists/MGM’s House of Gucci tallied an estimated $1.85M in its fourth weekend of release, bringing its total gross to $44.89M. The Ridley Scott bio-drama also took in an additional $4.1M internationally for a $48.59M overseas total and $106.14M globally.
In its seventh weekend, Eternals grossed an estimated $1.2M in seventh place for a total of $163.6M so far, while it grossed an estimated $0.7M overseas, bringing its global tally just shy of $400M ($399.7M). In eighth place, Paramount’s Clifford the Big Red Dog took in an estimated $400k for a total of $48.59M through the end of its sixth weekend. Ninth went to Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, which grossed an estimated $280k in its fourth weekend for a total of $16.73M, while Venom: Let There Be Carnage rounded out the top 10 with an estimated $220k (for a total of $212.41M).
United Artists’ Licorice Pizza grossed an estimated $89k from 4 locations in its fourth weekend of limited release ahead of its expansion to 750 locations next week. Its total to date is $1.29M.
In its second weekend of limited release, A24’s Red Rocket took in an estimated $81k from 16 locations, giving the comedy starring Simon Rex $199k to date. The studio will expand the Oscar-tipped film on Christmas Day.
The critically-acclaimed Sideshow/Janus Films title Drive My Car grossed an estimated $46k from 27 locations in its fourth weekend, lifting its total to $219k. The film will expand to more than 70 additional locations in the coming weeks as it attempts to capitalize on awards-season buzz.
C’mon C’mon tallied an estimated $39k from 102 locations, giving A24’s Joaquin Phoenix drama $1.77M through the end of its fifth weekend.
Ahead of its debut in the U.S., where it opens in theaters and on HBO Max on Dec. 22, The Matrix Resurrections debuted in seven markets and grossed an estimated $9.2M. The film took in $3.9M in both Russia and Japan and $794k in Thailand.
Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates: December 17-19, 2021
|Title||Estimated weekend||% change||Locations||Location change||Average||Total||Weekend||Distributor|
|Spider-Man: No Way Home||$253,000,000||4,336||$58,349||$253,000,000||1||Sony Pictures|
|West Side Story||$3,416,000||-68%||2,820||n/c||$1,211||$17,982,021||2||20th Century Studios|
|Ghostbusters: Afterlife||$3,400,000||-52%||3,282||-533||$1,036||$117,249,884||5||Sony Pictures|
|House of Gucci||$1,854,219||-55%||1,907||-1,500||$972||$44,886,084||4||United Artists|
|Clifford the Big Red Dog||$399,975||-69%||1,248||-1,592||$320||$48,586,000||6||Paramount|
|Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City||$280,000||-83%||719||-1,853||$389||$16,732,990||4||Sony Pictures|
|Venom: Let There be Carnage||$220,000||-71%||450||-553||$489||$212,413,049||12||Sony Pictures|
|The French Dispatch||$129,000||-48%||180||-130||$717||$15,822,160||9||Searchlight|
|Licorice Pizza||$89,175||-48%||4||n/c||$22,294||$1,290,182||4||United Artists|
|Drive My Car||$46,200||-23%||27||3||$1,711||$219,382||4||Janus Films|
|Ron’s Gone Wrong||$21,000||-51%||80||-130||$263||$23,000,592||9||20th Century Studios|
|The Novice||$11,500||37||$311||$11,500||1||IFC Films|
|The Scary of Sixty First||$10,379||3||$3,460||$20,656||3||Utopia|