Originally created 05/08/02

'Spidey' strings a box-office web that's a tough act to follow



LOS ANGELES -- Its record $114.8 million debut puts "Spider-Man," the new superhero of film franchises, in position to give even "Star Wars" a run for its money as the year's biggest hit.

With positive reviews, appeal to audiences of many ages and solid repeat business already, "Spider-Man" is virtually assured of becoming one of the top-grossing movies ever.

Domestic rankings now are headed by "Titanic" ($601 million), "Star Wars" ($461 million), "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" ($434 million), "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" ($431 million) and "Jurassic Park" ($357 million).

"'Spider-Man' is now the film to beat for highest-grossing film of 2002," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. "I don't predict grosses, but in this case, the $400 million range is a doable figure."

The movie, which stars Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging hero from the Marvel comic book, sees its first real competition on May 16 when "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" opens.

The "Star Wars" film will be hard-pressed to put up opening-weekend numbers approaching those of "Spider-Man." "Attack of the Clones" debuts on a Thursday, which could reduce its Friday-to-Sunday receipts because the most eager fans already will have seen it.

And distributor 20th Century Fox is opening "Attack of the Clones" in about 3,000 theaters, 600 fewer than "Spider-Man."

The advantage for "Star Wars," on the other hand, is that it's an established franchise whose films tend to have staying power, while the long-term prospects for "Spider-Man" are less certain.

The final weekend box-office figure released for "Spider-Man" on Monday was slightly higher than the $114 million distributor Sony had estimated a day earlier. It easily surpassed the previous best debut of $90.3 million set last fall by "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and became the first film to hit $100 million in just three days.

"In the heart of hearts, at least for me, I was looking at 'Harry Potter' thinking that was as big as one can get. How could you get in that neighborhood?" said Avi Arad, chief executive of Marvel Studios. "But your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man came to the neighborhood and took it over."

"Harry Potter" topped out at $317 million domestically, 3.5 times its gross from opening weekend. If "Spider-Man" can match that performance over the long haul, it would reach $400 million.

The movie's two-hour running time - half an hour shorter than "Harry Potter" - allows theaters to squeeze in more screenings each day.

Before "Spider-Man" even opened, Sony was confident enough to approve a sequel, which begins shooting in January with Sam Raimi returning to direct. Marvel Studios' other comic-book adaptations include "X-men" and its upcoming sequel, the "Blade" movies, and next year's "Hulk" and "Daredevil."

"The Phantom Menace" currently holds the record for fastest movie to reach $200 million, passing that mark in 13 days.

Next weekend's revenues will be a good indicator of how high "Spider-Man" can climb. As studios increasingly focus on huge opening weekends, the returns on recent top films have tumbled 50 percent or more in the second weekend.

"The law of gravity says next weekend will be less, but we do seem to have caught a crest that's peaking at this moment," said Jeff Blake, Sony marketing and distribution president.

"We're hearing stories of kids seeing it again and again already, and there's a feeling that it's so into the culture that even the very infrequent moviegoer is going to want to come to see what it's all about."

Weekend Box-Office Numbers

"Spider-Man" smashed box-office records with a $114.8 million debut, easily beating the previous best of $90.3 million netted by "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in its opening weekend last fall.

The top 20 movies at North American theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. and ACNielsen EDI Inc. are:

1. "Spider-Man," Sony, $114.8 million, 3,615 locations, $31,769 average, $114.8 million, one week.

2. "The Scorpion King," Universal, $9 million, 3,466 locations, $2,610 average, $74.3 million, three weeks.

3. "Changing Lanes," Paramount, $5.3 million, 2,642 locations, $2,021 average, $52.1 million, four weeks.

4. "Murder by Numbers," Warner Bros., $3.6 million, 2,565 locations, $1,413 average, $23.9 million, three weeks.

5. "Life or Something Like It," Fox, $3.2 million, 2,607 locations, $1,221 average, $10.9 million, two weeks.

6. "The Rookie," Disney, $3.1 million, 2,351 locations, $1,327 average, $64.9 million, six weeks.

7. "Deuces Wild," MGM-UA, $2.7 million, 1,480 locations, $1,827 average, $2.7 million, one week.

8. "Ice Age," Fox, $2.4 million, 2,137 locations, $1,109 average, $169 million, eight weeks.

9. "Jason X," New Line, $2.3 million, 1,879 locations, $1,226 average, $10.3 million, two weeks.

10. "Panic Room," Sony, $2.1 million, 1,827 locations, $1,143 average, $91 million, six weeks.

11. "Hollywood Ending," DreamWorks, $2 million, 765 locations, $2,638 average, $2 million, one week.

12. "High Crimes," Fox, $1.7 million, 1,451 locations, $1,181 average, $37.7 million, five weeks.

13. "The Sweetest Thing," Sony, $1 million, 1,125 locations, $894 average, $23.3 million, four weeks.

14. "Y Tu Mama Tambien," IFC Films, $759,613, 274 locations, $2,772 average, $8.4 million, eight weeks.

15. "Clockstoppers," Paramount, $706,423, 1,352 locations, $523 average, $35.5 million, six weeks.

16. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," IFC Films, $666,304, 147 locations, $4,533 average, $2.6 million, three weeks.

17. "Frailty," Lions Gate, $605,892, 552 locations, $1,098 average, $11.4 million, four weeks.

18. "Monsoon Wedding," USA Films, $593,527, 254 locations, $2,337 average, $9 million, 11 weeks.

19. "Blade II," New Line, $590,179, 687 locations, $859 average, $80.5 million, seven weeks.

20. "Space Station," IMAX, $486,944, 32 locations, $15,217 average, $2.2 million, three weeks.