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‘Spider-Man’ Makes a Modest Comeback at the Box Office

The web-slinging superhero is swinging upward with the opening of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming.’
By  · Published on July 10th, 2017

The web-slinging superhero is swinging upward with the opening of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming.’

This is what the fans have been waiting for, a Spider-Man movie set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a great payoff, receiving some of the best reviews ever for the superhero genre, and it follows directly from the huge success of Captain America: Civil War ($179M opening, $408M domestic total), which features Tom Holland’s debut as Spidey.

Alas, Spider-Man: Homecoming probably should have opened bigger than it did (long-range predictions had it for $135M). Still, if we’re considering the history of the character on screen, his ups and downs in quality and popularity, and his having to get over some general moviegoer fatigue with the franchise and its multiple reboots, the domestic figure of $117M, third best opening of the year so far, is something to celebrate.

Let’s look at the openings for each of the solo Spidey movies:

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man broke many records back in 2002, most notably being the first movie ever to open higher than $100M in only three days — it reached $115M, which is now equal to $175M when adjusted for inflation and was the best opening of its year. None of this was a surprise given how widely familiar the webslinger was in the pop culture arena and how highly anticipated his first movie was. It helped that it’s a pretty decent introduction, mixing coming-of-age origin story, romance, and action.

Two years later, Raimi returned with the even better Spider-Man 2, and it shattered some of the original’s records, including opening day gross. If you look at just its three-day weekend total, that’s only $88M ($125M adjusted), but that was a July 4th holiday weekend with Monday included for a $116M total ($165M adjusted), and also the movie dropped on Wednesday and most of the fans went those first two weekdays. Its six-day opening was $180M ($256M adjusted).

Raimi continued the series in 2007 with Spider-Man 3, which wasn’t a critical flop by any means but was still a disappointment for many reviewers and, more importantly, the fans. But because we were riding high on the previous two movies, this one opened to an enormous $151M ($194M adjusted) in only three days (the best opening of its year). The third movie didn’t have as strong legs, however, given its numerous faults and its silliness, and ultimately the sequel closed out with a much lower domestic total ($337M, or $432M adjusted) compared to its predecessors — however, Spider-Man 2 also finished lower ($374M/$532M adjusted) than Spider-Man ($404M/$614M adjusted).

The combination of moviegoers being disappointed with Spider-Man 3 and the complaints of such a quick reboot complete with a retelling of Spidey’s origin made for a major box office decline with 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Marc Webb’s first installment, with Andrew Garfield taking over the lead role from Tobey Maguire, garnered relatively favorable reviews but couldn’t catch enough of the general audience and opened to only $62M ($70M adjusted), which was about as much or far less than half of Raimi’s original’s bow, depending on which numbers you’re looking at. This one did open on a Tuesday, though, and had the July 4th holiday before its first weekend. Its six-day total was $137M ($156M adjusted). But it also benefitted from 3D and IMAX screenings, unlike the previous three.

Webb followed that up with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014. While it turned out to be the first “rotten” movie, review-wise, according to Rotten Tomatoes aggregation, moviegoers who must have liked the first Amazing installment enough, came out strong for the sequel. It opened with $92M ($97M adjusted) in just three days. In the end, its domestic total of $203M ($215M adjusted) and worldwide total of $709M were both franchise lows and weren’t viewed by Sony as good enough to continue that run, despite its having set up sequels and spin-offs that would go unfulfilled.

Here’s a crude line graph showing how Spider-Man: Homecoming is at least a positive swing upward for the franchise, with just the three-day figures, all adjusted for inflation:

Because of the movies that opened on holiday weeks/weekends, however, it’s worth comparing them by first-week, seven-day domestic totals, again all adjusted:

Spider-Man: $231M
Spider-Man 2: $273M
Spider-Man 3: $234M
The Amazing Spider-Man: $164M
The Amazing Spider-Man 2: $117M
Spider-Man: Homecoming: $163M (updated on 7/14)

The new movie, which is directed by Jon Watts, has already made as much in three days as the previous installment did in seven, but it needs to keep posting big numbers through the week to prove itself a greater success than the first Amazing Spider-Man (it didn’t).

In the long run, Homecoming should have greater word of mouth and stronger legs, and that could offer the evidence required for Sony to trust they did right by their investment (they did right by the fans, at least) in rebooting again, this time in partnership with Marvel. If anything, we can hope the audience will be even bigger for the next one.

Of course, the global figures will also be taken into account for Sony’s measure of financial victory, and already Homecoming‘s overseas opening gross of $140M seems an improvement on the Amazing movies’ respective $51M and $47M. Both of those figures, however, come from far fewer markets ahead of the movies’ US openings, with the latter representing only 14 countries. Homecoming‘s number comes from 56 markets.

So it’s difficult to compare, and overseas breakdown details on the new movie aren’t all posted yet. What is visible, however, are slight improvements over the Amazings in South Korea ($17M vs. $13M each), Mexico ($12M vs. $9-10M), and Australia ($8M vs. $5m each). It did about the same as the last two in India ($6.5M) but worse in the UK, Brazil, Russia, and Italy.

The big test, as always, will be its Chinese opening, which still hasn’t been set with a date. But I also wonder if Homecoming won’t be as popular overseas because of how much high school comedy it features in relation to its action spectacle.

Finally, now that Spider-Man is in the MCU and the new movie was sold so much on that, particularly through Iron Man’s appearance, we have to look at Homecoming in the context of that franchise, as well. For a solo hero debut, it’s second only to Iron Man‘s adjusted figure of $121M, with the next best being Doctor Strange‘s $86M (or Guardians of the Galaxy‘s $103M if we include a team of newcomers).

Of course, Spidey isn’t as new to moviegoers as most MCU characters are when they’re introduced. He’s had five other solo efforts outside the MCU and also made his debut in the MCU already with Civil War. But if we compare Homecoming to solo hero sequels, its opening is still only lower than the Iron Man series and Civil War, if that should even count. The other movies that started stronger include the two Avengers installments and this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

So, it’s definitely a hit for the Marvel brand, a nice, modest comeback for Sony, and hopefully just the beginning for a new era of quality and financial quantity for Spider-Man movies.

Here’s our updated graph on Marvel’s box office openings:

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.