Weekend Box Office (May 3 - 5, 2002)

*** Read the NEW Summer Box Office Preview ***

THIS WEEKEND The much-anticipated launch of Sony's super hero tale Spider-Man demolished industry records generating the largest opening weekend in box office history. The big-budget feature film adaptation of the Marvel Comics favorite debuted with a gargantuan $114,844,116 over the Friday-to-Sunday period, according to final studio figures, easily surpassing the previous opening weekend record of $90.3M set last November by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Spider-Man's unbelievable weekend haul greatly exceeded the expectations of industry analysts and set the pace for what could be a record summer box office.

Tobey Maguire stars as Peter Parker, a high school geek who gains super powers after being bitten by a genetically-enhanced spider. Willem Dafoe stars as his nemesis, Green Goblin, while Kirsten Dunst plays Parker's neighbor and love interest. Directed by Sam Raimi, Spider-Man swung into a massive 3,615 theaters and averaged an eye-popping $31,769 per theater. With the big summer blockbusters still weeks away, Sony was able to book multiple auditoriums in friendly neighborhood multiplexes across the country and saturated the marketplace with approximately 7,500 total prints. By comparison, Harry Potter bowed with slightly more playdates - 3,672 theaters and 8,100 prints - and a $24,590 per-theater average.

Spider-Man crushed a long list of records in its historic debut. Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment, reported that the film's daily totals included $39.3M on Friday, $43.7M on Saturday (up 11%), and $31.8M on Sunday (down 27%). Each figure set a new record for its respective day beating the previous records held by Harry Potter's Friday and Saturday of $32.3M and $33.5M, and The Lost World's Sunday of $26.1M. Spider-Man also broke the records for largest opening day (beating Harry Potter's Friday) and biggest single-day gross (Harry Potter's Saturday).

The webslinger set new opening weekend benchmarks for Sony and for the month of May beating records that were both set in 1997. Men in Black was the studio's former pacesetter with a $51.1M debut while The Lost World held the May opening record for five years with a $72.1M gross over its Friday-to-Sunday bow. Another record Spider-Man claimed was the speed record to the $100M mark. Both Star Wars Episode I and Harry Potter reached the century mark in five days, but Spidey accomplished the feat in just three.

Although Spider-Man entered the marketplace on a wave of marketing hype and heavy anticipation, most expectations were that it would come close, but not surpass, the opening weekend record of Harry Potter. Sony spent a reported $120-130M to produce the film and poured tens of millions more into marketing and releasing costs. The teaser campaign began last summer with a trailer showing New York criminals in a helicopter being caught in a spider web constructed between the World Trade Center towers. Those trailers were yanked right after September 11 as were early posters showing a reflection of the Twin Towers in the super hero's eyes. The studio planted itself on the May 3rd date a year ago scaring away competitors and allowing the tentpole picture to attack theaters before all the other summer event films arrived.

So far, Spider-Man has been pleasing audiences and critics alike - not an easy task at all. Reviews have been mostly positive and Maguire's performance has been singled out and praised thereby hushing skeptics who criticized the casting choice last year. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore.com gave the effects-heavy film an overall grade of A- while those under the age of 35 honored the picture with a glowing A grade. Sony's exit polls also indicated that ticket buyers feel like they're getting their money's worth with 90% of those polled calling the picture "excellent" or "very good." Demographic data showed that the turnout was equally split between males and females and those under and over age 25. The broad appeal of Spider-Man was crucial in reaching such a large audience.

Plus the trailer space in front of Spider-Man became the hottest real estate around. "We had 20 million people come and see the trailers to our summer lineup," stated Blake. Promos for the studio's promising slate including Men in Black 2, XXX, Mr. Deeds, and Stuart Little 2 played in front of Spider-Man which puts the studio in a terrific position to make a run for the summer marketshare crown by Labor Day. Universal also took advantage of this valuable marketing opportunity to debut the early teaser to The Hulk, another big-budget Marvel Comics feature film, which is scheduled to open next summer. Marvel also has Fox's X-Men 2 in production and set for release this very weekend next year (May 2, 2003) and Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, which is currently shooting and tentatively slated for January 17 next year. As if the comic book conglomerate does not have enough success, Maguire, Dunst, and Raimi will reunite next year to begin filming the sequel to Spider-Man.

Internationally, Spider-Man began casting its worldwide web this weekend and premiered in a number of Asian markets posting all-time record openings in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines, according to Blake. In South Korea and Taiwan, Spidey posted the second-biggest bow in history. The wallcrawler will quickly pounce on the rest of the world with Japan ready to explode on May 11, Latin America and eastern Europe debuting this month, and western Europe and Australia bowing thoughout June.

The remaining movies in the marketplace all seemed like puny insects when compared to Spider-Man's amazing gross. Two-time defending champ The Scorpion King lost its title belt and fell 50% to second place with $9M. The Universal action-adventure pic has collected an impressive $74.3M in 17 days and should finish its run with $90-100M.

Paramount's revenge thriller Changing Lanes dropped 41% to $5.3M in its fourth frame upping its cume to $52.1M. The Sandra Bullock crime film Murder by Numbers was off 43% to $3.6M giving the Warner Bros. release $23.9M after its third weekend.

Fox's Life or Something Like It and Disney's The Rookie followed with weekend grosses of $3.2M and $3.1M, respectively. Angelina Jolie's Life tumbled 49% reaching a cume of just $10.9M after ten days while The Rookie declined 44% (its largest drop to date) and pushed its total to $64.9M.

MGM opened the street gang drama Deuce's Wild to a poor $2.7M result. Playing in 1,480 theaters, the R-rated pic averaged a wimpy $1,827. Starring Matt Dillon and Brad Renfro, Deuce's earned a disappointing C grade with audiences polled by CinemaScore.com.

Fox's animated blockbuster Ice Age took in $2.4M lifting its sum to $169M while the horror sequel Jason X scared up $2.3M, collapsing 65% in its sophomore frame. The New Line release has grossed only $10.3M in ten days. Sony's Panic Room fell by half to place tenth with $2.1M and has brought in $91M thus far.

Woody Allen's latest comedy Hollywood Ending opened in eleventh place with $2M from 765 theaters for a mild $2,638 average. The DreamWorks release scored a CinemaScore.com grade of B- and received mixed reviews from critics. The director's last film, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, debuted similarly with $2.5M and a $2,723 average.

Two films made their exit from the top ten. Fox's High Crimes starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman fell 45% to $1.7M in its fifth frame for a $37.7M cume. The PG-13 film looks to end its run with around $40M which will not match the $60.5M that 1997's Kiss the Girls, also starring the acting duo, grossed. Elsewhere, Sony's Cameron Diaz comedy The Sweetest Thing fell sharply in its fourth weekend and has collected just $23.3M to date. The $43M film will conclude with a disappointing $25M.

The top ten films grossed $148.6M which was up a sensational 53% from last year when The Mummy Returns debuted at number one with $68.1M; and up an astounding 101% from 2000 when Gladiator opened in the top spot with $34.8M.

Compared to projections, Spider-Man climbed even higher than my bullish $80M forecast. Deuce's Wild and Hollywood Ending both debuted close to my bearish projections of $4M and $3M, respectively.

Be sure to read the annual Summer Box Office Preview.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on Batman vs. Superman. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Spider-Man would be able to reach $250M at the domestic box office. Of 2,888 responses, 79% said Yes while 21% thought No.

For a review of Spider-Man visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Unfaithful and The New Guy both debut.

Marketplace: Shop for videos, DVDs, music, books, and posters at discounted prices using search engines

# Title May 3 - 5 Apr 26 - 28 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Spider-Man $ 114,844,116 3,615 1 $ 31,769 $ 114,844,116 Sony
2 The Scorpion King 9,046,660 18,038,270 -49.8 3,466 3 2,610 74,259,075 Universal
3 Changing Lanes 5,338,222 9,008,285 -40.7 2,642 4 2,021 52,086,342 Paramount
4 Murder By Numbers 3,624,487 6,362,457 -43.0 2,565 3 1,413 23,893,720 Warner Bros.
5 Life or Something Like It 3,182,255 6,219,234 -48.8 2,607 2 1,221 10,922,247 Fox
6 The Rookie 3,120,594 5,607,222 -44.3 2,351 6 1,327 64,899,264 Buena Vista
7 Deuce's Wild 2,704,682 1,480 1 1,827 2,704,682 MGM
8 Ice Age 2,369,504 5,020,786 -52.8 2,137 8 1,109 169,030,520 Fox
9 Jason X 2,303,345 6,649,006 -65.4 1,879 2 1,226 10,250,489 New Line
10 Panic Room 2,088,101 4,210,107 -50.4 1,827 6 1,143 90,964,111 Sony
11 Hollywood Ending 2,017,981 765 1 2,638 2,035,193 DreamWorks
12 High Crimes 1,713,011 3,111,550 -44.9 1,451 5 1,181 37,685,444 Fox
13 The Sweetest Thing 1,005,340 2,904,173 -65.4 1,125 4 894 23,250,882 Sony
14 Y Tu Mama Tambien 759,613 1,001,255 -24.1 274 8 2,772 8,397,488 IFC Films
15 Clockstoppers 706,423 2,238,603 -68.4 1,352 6 523 35,489,744 Paramount
16 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 666,304 804,683 -17.2 147 3 4,533 2,567,045 IFC Films
17 Frailty 605,892 1,350,305 -55.1 552 4 1,098 11,434,761 Lions Gate
18 Monsoon Wedding 593,527 724,658 -18.1 254 11 2,337 8,991,903 USA Films
19 Blade II 590,179 1,441,392 -59.1 687 7 859 80,514,687 New Line
20 Space Station 486,944 562,912 -13.5 32 3 15,217 2,175,549 Imax
Top 5 $ 136,035,740 $ 46,277,252 194.0
Top 10 148,621,966 67,131,090 121.4
Top 20 157,767,180 78,279,502 101.5
Top 20 vs. 2001 157,767,180 105,389,080 49.7

Last Updated : May 6, 2002 at 8:15PM EDT