Without Any New Major Releases, Will ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Return to No. 1 at Box Office?

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Will Spider-Man be able to save the box office … again?

Yes, you’re reading this in August of 2022. And yes, there’s actually a chance that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” will return to the No. 1 spot on domestic box office charts … roughly eight months after the superhero adventure swooped into cinemas and revived the theater industry. Sony is rereleasing the film — which has already grossed an astounding $804 million in North America and $1.9 billion globally — in 3,850-plus theaters over Labor Day weekend, this time with a glorious 11 minutes of extra footage. Thank you, Peter Parker!

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How, pray tell, is it possible that December release “Spider-Man: No Way Home” could end up presiding over domestic box office charts in the final stretch of summer? Well, it’s not that surprising if you consider the reality that studios have all but abandoned the big screen in August after ticket sales rebounded at the start of popcorn season. In the past few weeks, the moviegoing landscape has taken a drastic turn from dreary to downright desolate.

In this wasteland, Sony’s horror film “The Invitation” needed only $6.8 million to top the box office last weekend, the lowest first-place finish in more than a year. And this weekend’s eventual victor may be able to reign supreme with even less. “The Invitation” will likely drop 50% to 55% in its sophomore outing, which would put ticket sales around $2.5 million to $3 million. Though tracking is not readily available for re-releases like “Spider-Man,” the Marvel behemoth could realistically rake in a few million as well. There’s also a good chance that Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” takes the lead in its 15th weekend of release. Tom Cruise’s blockbuster sequel has been a mainstay throughout the summer (with $691 million domestically, and $1.4 billion globally and counting) and will expand to 3,105 theaters by Friday.

National Cinema Day, which is set for Sept. 3, could complicate those estimates. That’s because movie tickets in the majority of North American theaters will be just $3 on Saturday– far less than the nation’s average $9 ticket price. More than 3,000 theaters, including major chains like AMC and Regal, will be participating in the discount day in an effort to populate multiplexes during the dog days of summer.

Only one new movie, the church satire “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” is playing in a significant number of theaters. But in addition to screening in 1,879 venues, it’s also debuting day-and-date on Peacock — so box office watchers aren’t expecting it to make a meaningful impact in terms of ticket sales. Anywhere in the low-single digits would be considered a triumph for Focus Features, which bought the well-reviewed movie at Sundance Film Festival for $8.5 million.

Cinema owners have mostly gotten used to hybrid releases, but they still find it disappointing because “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” comes with some serious star power; Jordan Peele and Daniel Kaluuya were producers on the film, which spotlights Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown as the husband and wife of a megachurch that’s engulfed in scandal.

IndieWire’s Kate Erbland called “Honk for Jesus” a “winning combination of the divine and the horrific, a takedown of not just fervent religiosity but our own worst human impulses.” Adamma Ebo wrote and directed “Honk for Jesus,” which was produced by her sister Adanne Ebo.

For a dose of nostalgia that’s heavier than 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Universal is bringing back the original summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark thriller “Jaws,” to 1,200-plus North American theaters over the weekend. Without much to show, theater owners have been busy booking screenings of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (which earned $1 million from 255 theaters last weekend) and “E.T.” (which raked in $35,000 from 95 cinemas last weekend).

If Hollywood doesn’t start releasing new movies soon, it may be time to bring back “Casablanca.”

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