'Spider-Man' to Swing Into the Record Books

by Brandon Gray
May 3, 2002

Prepare to marvel at an amazing opening for Spider-Man, and that's not just spin. Fans of the webslinger have been waiting decades for this movie, and they'll be out in full force this weekend. So much so, that the $72.1 million May weekend record set by The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997 will likely go extinct.

Sony has mounted a massive marketing campaign befitting a movie that reportedly cost around $130 million to make. The trailer and commercials are sufficiently action-packed, colorful and replete with a rock anthem and a number of money shots, like Spidey clinging to a flagpole as the camera pans around him. The spots should strike a chord with those familiar with the character. And who isn't?

Ask just about anyone to name three superheroes, Spider-Man would probably be the most common answer after Superman and Batman. That's important to note, because Superman, Superman II, Batman, Batman Returns and Batman Forever each set new weekend box office records when they opened. Batman's $40.5 million bow from 2,194 theaters, for instance, would equal about $58 million today, adjusted for ticket price inflation. Spidey's Marvel stable mate X-Men even launched with $54.5 million two summers ago, setting a new benchmark for a non-sequel at the time.

Spider-Man has certainly staked out prime release date real estate. Early May has become the official start of the summer movie season ever since Twister blew into theaters with a whopping $41.1 million opening back in 1996. Last year, The Mummy Returns set a new precedent for the frame by unwrapping $68.1 million from 3,401 theaters.

About the only negative could be the special effects. To many, Spider-Man and Green Goblin's antics look like CGI in the commercials and the trailers. Then again, such artificiality didn't hurt The Mummy Returns.

Swinging into 3,615 theaters, the third-widest release ever after Harry Potter's 3,672 and Mission: Impossible 2's 3,653, with an estimated 7,500 prints, a bit shy of Harry Potter's 8,200 record, Spider-Man could snare an opening in the $80 million range. That would be the second-biggest bow ever after, again, Harry Potter with its $90.3 million start.

Two movies dare to open opposite Spider-Man. Gangster flick Deuces Wild and Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending aim for a few counter-programming dollars from 1,480 and 765 theaters respectively. But all they'll get are box office crumbs, as neither stands much of chance of cracking $3 million this weekend. All Deuces' marketing campaign does really is rattle off the names of its C-list stars, and the '50s-style rumble it promises doesn't come off as menacing or spectacular in the least. As for Ending, the dominant gag is the psychosomatically blind Allen doing pratfalls. Besides movies about movies almost invariably disappoint as do Allen's.

Among holdovers, expect The Scorpion King to fall another 50%, possibly more, to around $9 million for second place, pushing The Mummy spin-off's 17-day total to $75 million. It will likely peter out shy of the century mark by the end of its run. Jason X, though, should be the real casualty. The 10th Friday the 13th movie could get slashed by 70% this week to $2 million, given the extreme frontloadedness the franchise has displayed in the past.

Click here to view the specific predictions for the top 10 movies.

On the same frame last year, the sole new wide release The Mummy Returns unearthed a monumental $68.1 million from 3,401 theaters on course to $202 million.

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