The third movie in Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios’ Spidey films, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which promises [NO, WE WON’T SPOIL ANYTHING] is proving to be a genuine pandemic-era smash hit. In previews on Thursday, Dec. 16 alone, No Way Home pulled in a reported $50 million in domestic box office. If international box office is taken into account, the number jumps to $93.6 million.
Sticking with the domestic numbers for now, that’s an unheard of number since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. The preview night total puts No Way Home higher than Shang-Chi’s pre-opening weekend numbers ($29 million on a Friday), and finds it outpacing the previous installment in the adventures of Tom Holland and Zendaya. Before the pandemic (remember that?) in 2019, Far From Home earned $39 million on Tuesday, July 2, and $27.5 million on Wednesday, July 3, before leading into a long holiday weekend.
A week and a half out from the 2021 Christmas holiday weekend, and No Way Home seems on pace to crush those numbers. In fact, No Way Home sits as the third-biggest preview screening of all-time, behind only Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Endgame. Even the current Hollywood champion of 2021, Daniel Craig’s swan song as James Bond, No Time to Die, must be looking over its shoulder at this point.
There are a number of reasons why No Way Home is dominating theaters — it’s gotten mostly fulfilling reviews, arriving out the gate with a 95 on Rotten Tomatoes. (Polygon’s review says that while Holland “finally gets the opportunity to try and stand on his own,” though it ultimately continues the “bothersome trend of the filmmakers leaning on other movies to provide them with stakes and shortcuts to character growth”).
Then there’s the sheer nostalgia factor of bringing back the classic villains of the previous franchises. In 2002, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man broke records in it’s day with the first-ever $100 million-plus weekend. Bolstered by a love for that movie, No Way Home should have no problem becoming the biggest Spider-Man movie of all time.
A cultural moment is beginning to form around No Way Home. One need only check certain hashtags, like #SpiderManNoWayHome and #AMC, to see one jam-packed theater after another. All those images essentially work as free advertising, leaving the impression that not seeing this movie in theaters means missing out. No Way Home’s release comes a precarious moment, with the omicron variant of COVID-19 potentially leading to a massive wave of infections. But for now, the viewing public seems eager to get back into theaters.
What it means in the end is that, though smaller films have struggled to find their place in this new era of moviegoing, the Marvel brand continues to reign (sorcerer) supreme. As of reporting, the top three movies of 2021 in the U.S. are Black Widow ($183.7 million), Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($212.2 million), and Shang-Chi ($224.5 million). With $50 million in the can, Spider-Man: No Way Home is all but guaranteed to take the top spot.