‘Spider-Man 3’ Box Office Bodes Well for Summer

Posted by Dresonic on May 9, 2007

“Spider-Man 3,” the latest in the blockbuster series starring Tobey Maguire, set an exuberant tone for Hollywood’s summer season, beating box-office records for its opening day and the weekend that followed, domestically and internationally.

The movie, directed by Sam Raimi, took in an estimated $148 million in domestic ticket sales in its opening weekend, including $59 million when it opened on Friday, according to box-office tracking companies like Screenline and Media by Numbers. Both figures broke the records held by “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

“Spider-Man 3” broke records around the world too, as it opened abroad even before hitting screens in the United States, underscoring the rising dominance of international markets. The film took in an estimated $227 million in 105 foreign countries, outstripping the previous record-holder, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”

“It’s the biggest opening ever in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Korea, China, Russia, Italy, Mexico and Brazil,” said Jeff Blake, Sony’s chairman for worldwide marketing and distribution, adding that the film broke records in 26 countries. “It justifies the expense of a franchise picture like this. And I think it’s a great sign for the summer.”

The movie may have cost more to make than any film in Hollywood history. Sony put the budget at $260 million, with additional marketing costs of about $120 million, but some published reports have placed the budget at above $300 million.

The strong opening weekend for “Spider-Man 3” may augur well for a season in which more than a dozen big-budget sequels are set to come barreling forth, promising what some experts say could be a record-breaking summer for the movie industry. “Shrek the Third” will follow “Spider-Man 3” by two weeks, with “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” right after that. “Ocean’s 13” and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” come on their heels in June.

“This should be the first $4 billion summer,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers. “That could fuel the first $10 billion year at the box office. That was unthinkable two years ago, during the slump of 2005.”

Mr. Dergarabedian and others pointed out that sequels seemed the most reliable way to draw audiences to a familiar theater experience and allowed studios to contain marketing costs relative to the challenge of introducing new franchises.

The results could help put to rest fears over declining audience attendance and box-office revenue. Before this weekend, box-office revenues were up 3.5 percent over the same period in 2006, driven by surprise hits like “300,” which took in $207 million domestically, and “Wild Hogs,” which took in $160 million in the United States.

But after this weekend, box-office revenues were up 6 percent — a jump attributable to “Spider-Man” — while attendance increased 3.6 percent over the same time last year.

The top executives at Sony said that the success of “Spider-Man 3” in its opening weekend, and its potential impact on the industry, more than justified its budget. “We knew what this movie was going to cost, and we hoped that it would be successful,” Amy Pascal, the co-chairwoman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said. “I don’t think any of us thought it would break records the way it has. It was budgeted to be a little less than Spidey 1 and 2.”

Riding a massive marketing push and a release on 4,252 screens domestically — more than any previous Hollywood release — “Spider-Man 3” was impervious to a drubbing by movie critics who said it had a surfeit of villains (four), an indulgent length at two hours and 20 minutes and a Busby Berkeley section in which Peter Parker cuts a rug.

The only competition among new releases for “Spider-Man 3,” Curtis Hanson’s “Lucky You,” a Las Vegas poker story with Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana, took in just $2.5 million. In those circumstances even the studio releasing it, Warner Brothers, bowed to the blockbuster behemoth. “They just knocked it out of the park,” Dan Fellman, president of theatrical distribution for Warner Brothers, said. The horror film “Disturbia” came in second for the weekend, taking in a mere $5.7 million.

“Dead Man’s Chest,” the 2006 “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel from Disney, held the previous record for opening day ($55.8 million) and for the highest box-office take on a weekend ($135.6 million).

Ms. Pascal of Sony said she had definite plans to make yet another sequel to the “Spider-Man” franchise, with the same group that had made the first three hits.

“We’re going to make a lot more,” she said. “I hope it will be with Tobey and Sam and all of them. They began it, and I hope they go on making them forever.”


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