How ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Swung to a Record $600 Million Debut Despite the Pandemic

·3-min read
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is PRO-INSIGHT_banner_JF-1.png
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is PRO-INSIGHT_banner_JF-1.png

The numbers for Sony/Marvel Studios’ “Spider-Man: No Way Home” are nothing short of historic. With a $260 million domestic and $600 million global opening — and both could go up after Sunday results are reported — the studio now has a film that stands among the top three biggest launches of all time.

With this result, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” now has the third largest global opening and the second largest domestic opening in box office history, beating the $257 million domestic opening of “Avengers: Infinity War.” It is now virtually guaranteed to become the first film since the pandemic began to gross over $1 billion worldwide — even if it doesn’t get a release in China.

So even as the pandemic continues to keep large swaths of the public away from theaters, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had something even bigger than COVID fears: crossover appeal. Though it might not be an “Avengers” film, “No Way Home” was able to make “Avengers”-level money because it had the same promise of an epic mashup of comic book movie stars from multiple films, like Benedict Cumberbatch from “Doctor Strange,” that Marvel fans cherish.

But not only did Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange make an extended appearance, “No Way Home” stretches past the MCU timeline to Spidey’s cinematic past, with fans being teased for months that the film would see Tom Holland meet up with the heroes and villains of blockbusters that paved the way for the ongoing domination of superhero movies.

And as anyone who has seen the film can attest, the film matched the hype. Clips have surfaced on social media of sold-out auditoriums cheering and screaming every time one of the villains from Sam Raimi and Marc Webb’s “Spider-Man” entries stepped onto the big screen, culminating in roaring elation over the long-rumored appearance of additional stars from past Spidey films. It’s the same kind of cheers that were heard back in 2019 when Captain America picked up Thor’s hammer and gathered all of the MCU heroes together to take on Thanos in “Avengers: Endgame.”

And just as important, those cheers were largely coming from millennials and Gen Z. According to Sony insiders, 62% of the opening weekend audience for “No Way Home” came from the 18-35 demographic.

That age group already was the core audience for moviegoing before the pandemic, but with seniors staying home amid COVID fears and mature fare like “West Side Story” floundering on the weekend charts, the 18-35 crowd has served even more as the box office kingmakers this year. With the possible exception of MGM’s “No Time to Die,” the precious few films that have turned any kind of theatrical profit have only been able to do so with turnout from younger adults. (That includes the year’s biggest hits, Disney/Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Universals “F9” and Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”)

The MCU has become the ultimate crowd-pleaser in pop culture, getting audiences attached to likable superheroes in standalone films and then getting them even more excited when they inevitably meet up in mashup films. As a new wave of protagonists like Shang-Chi, Kate Bishop and Ms. Marvel get welcomed into the fold — not to mention Netflix-originated Marvel heroes like Daredevil — that crossover hype is getting fueled up for another long run even after “Endgame” saw the exit of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson.

But “No Way Home” took that strategy a step further, becoming the pinnacle of what fans were hoping for when Sony and Disney first announced their Spidey partnership — and what they feared was lost when that partnership nearly fell apart. And if the MCU can now access non-Disney Marvel movie characters and storylines, don’t be surprised when the franchise scores another $200 million-plus opening whenever the X-Men finally enter the picture.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting