‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Set To Break Pandemic Records
2021 has been a rocky year at the box office, but it is all set to end on a high note. Despite the disappointing returns of the last two weekends, which were the lowest grossing since September, the next two weekends may very well become the year’s biggest. Leading the charge and gearing to break pandemic-era box office records is Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, swinging into theaters in the prime pre-Christmas slot.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is the eighth live-action Spider-Man film and the third film in this MCU connected series (all directed by Jon Watts thus far) which stars Tom Holland as Peter Parker, Zendaya as MJ, and Marisa Tomei as Aunt May in addition to a slew of MCU characters who show up. This installment ups the ante even more, with a spell from Dr. Strange that goes wrong and opens up a portal to other Spider-verses. The hotly anticipated film appears to be living up to the hype with 95% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes giving it a thumbs up, putting it among the top tier of Spidey flicks critically.

Pre-release traffic for No Way Home on IMDb is through the roof compared to any other film this year, and it is set to be at least the biggest opener since Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker opened to $177 million in the same pre-Christmas weekend two years ago. The biggest opening since then fittingly came from a Spidey villain. Venom: Let There Be Carnage opened to $90 million in October this year, and though No Way Home should top that without breaking a sweat, how much higher it can get is the question that has box-office watchers on the edge of their seats. It has a shot of breaking the series’ opening weekend record, currently held by Spider-Man 3 which opened to $151 million back in 2007, and it has a much bigger shot of being the best opener of the Tom Holland starring MCU films. Of those, the biggest opener was the debut Spider-Man: Homecoming which netted $117 million in its opening weekend. Its sequel Spider-Man: Far From Home was bigger overall and it became the second highest grossing of all the Spider-Man films with $390 million (topped only by the 2002 Spider-Man’s $403 million), though the Tuesday pre-July 4th opening makes it hard to compare opening weekend grosses (it scored $92.3 million in its first Fri-Sun and ended the weekend with a total of $185 million). While topping these openings is likely, it remains to be seen if No Way Home will have the legs to give it a final gross comparable to its predecessors.

We’re already seeing some spectacular numbers overseas for No Way Home where it opened Wednesday in many territories. The opening was the biggest Wednesday ever in the U.K. where it grossed $10 million, and it was the biggest opening day ever for Sony in the country. The $9 million Wednesday gross in Mexico is the country’s best ever opening day. The opening numbers in South Korea are not only the biggest of the pandemic but they are also running ahead of Far From Home’s opening, which is especially impressive in what has been a lagging market with Covid restrictions. Korea was the third biggest market for Far From Home after the U.S. and China, where No Way Home has yet to get a release date. Far From Home was the first film in the series to cross $1 billion worldwide, a feat no film has accomplished since 2019. While No Way Home could be the film to bring us back to those box office highs, that would be difficult to achieve without China coming into play.

Searchlight provides this weekend’s counter-programming with a new film from Guillermo del Toro, his first since his 2017 film The Shape of Water took home the Oscar for Best Picture. Based on the 1946 book by William Lindsay Gresham, which was also made into a film in 1947, Nightmare Alley is del Toro’s foray into film noir, taking place in a dark world of carnivals, cons, deception, and desperation. Bradley Cooper stars as a scheming carnival man, and the cast is rounded out by Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn.

Reviews are strong for Nightmare Alley (84% on Rotten Tomatoes), and the awards buzz could give it long legs as we saw with The Shape of Water, which grossed $63.9 million despite its biggest weekend gross reaching only $5.9 million. That platform release played for three months, contrasting the wide release of Crimson Peak which opened to $13.1 million and fizzled out in just over a month with $31.1 million. Where Nightmare Alley falls in the busy holiday season is an open question for now.

Eyeballs are also on West Side Story in its second weekend to see if it can hold well and possibly pull a Greatest Showman or if it sinks after its disappointing opening.

And the holiday movie season is just getting started. Next week’s releases include The Matrix Resurrections, Sing 2, The King's Man, American Underdog, and A Journal for Jordan.