'Spider-Man' Takes Box Office on the Ultimate Spin: $114.8 Million

by Brandon Gray
May 6, 2002

The Amazing Spider-Man indeed.

No need for "spin" control from Sony. Spider-Man shattered every opening record on the books with an unprecedented $114.8 million weekend. Never before in Hollywood history has a movie grossed over $100 million in its first three days, not even when taking ticket price inflation into account. To put that figure into further perspective, uber-blockbusters Stars Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone took 5 days to hit that mark.

Swinging into 3,615 theaters, the $130 million Marvel Comics adaptation ranked as the third-widest release ever after Harry Potter's 3,672 and Mission: Impossible 2's 3,653, and it played on an estimated 7,500 screens, a bit shy of Harry Potter's 8,200 record. Nonetheless, Spidey swooped past Harry Potter's $90.3 million to claim the opening weekend crown, and posted the highest per theater average ever for an ultra-wide release—a staggering $31,769.

Spider-Man's universal appeal was nurtured from 40 years of comic books for the Marvel Comics figurehead, a relatable hero, the latest state-of-the-art special effects and a massive, rollicking marketing campaign. According to Sony, Spider-Man's audience was split evenly between males and females and those over and under the age of 25. What's more, moviegoers polled on opening night by CinemaScore gave it an A-. Sony's exit polls had similar results, with 90% of audiences checking the "excellent" or "very good" boxes.

Breaking the weekend down, Spider-Man snared $39.4 million on Friday alone, crushing Harry Potter's $32.3 million opening day record and the boy wizard's $33.5 million single day record. On Saturday, Spider-Man pulled off another incredible feat as it enjoyed a 10.7% boost in business to $43.6 million, eclipsing the single day record it had just set Friday. The norm for fan-driven movies performing at high levels is to drop on Saturday, such as Marvel stable mate X-Men's 7% dip on its first Saturday during its $54.5 million first weekend. On Sunday, Spider-Man dipped just 27.1% to $31.8 million, the highest gross that day has ever seen.

Spider-Man follows the tradition of superheroes breaking box office records as they leap to the big screen. Back in 1978, Superman soared to a weekend milestone of $10.4 million from 818 theaters en route to $134.2 million. Superman II followed suit with $14.1 million from 1,395 venues in 1981. Then came Batman in 1989 with its staggering $40.5 million bow from 2,194 theaters (which would equal about $58 million today adjusted for inflation) on course to a $251.2 million total. Batman Returns' $45.7 million and Batman Forever's $52.8 million also set new weekend benchmarks. X-Men's $54.5 million two summers ago even set the precedent for a non-sequel at the time.

In a distant second—to put it mildly—The Scorpion King grabbed $9 million, 7.9% of what Spider-Man did. Down 50%, the $60 million Mummy spin-off actually held up about as well as it did last weekend. The 17-day total stands at $74.3 million.

Two movies trying to eke out a few counter-programming dollars were caught in Spidey's web.

In seventh place, Deuces Wild was not ready to rumble, taking in $2.7 million from 1,480 locations. In the can for two years, the '50s street gang drama was originally going to be a limited release, but MGM decided to go wide with it just a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Woody Allen's latest Hollywood Ending, his third movie distributed by DreamWorks, came in at an unhappy 11th place. Playing at 765 theaters, it managed just $2.0 million, anemic by even Allen's low box office standards. Small Time Crooks remains his biggest opening ever, bowing to $3.9 million from 865 venues two years ago. His last picture, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, debuted to $2.5 million from 903 and ended up with $7.5 million.

Click here to view the weekend chart.

The top 12 pictures totaled $153.3 million, Spider-Man accounting for about two thirds of that sum. Business was up a whopping 116.2% over the $70.9 million last weekend and up 53.7% over the $99.7 million of same frame last year, when the sole new wide release The Mummy Returns unearthed a then monumental $68.1 million from 3,401 theaters on course to $202 million.

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