Spider-Man: No Way Home obliterated the box office this weekend, proving that people ARE willing to go to the movies during a pandemic…if your movie is a Marvel movie, more specifically with “Spider-Man” in the title.
No Way Home opened with a massive $253 million three-day weekend, good for the third highest domestic opening weekend of all time (not adjusted for inflation). These are not just good pandemic numbers, these are good numbers, period. This is what business looked like in the before times, and some hope it’s a sign that 2022 will be a “return to normal” for the movie industry, though as omicron surges around the world, theaters are beginning to close (again). Still, No Way Home hauled in over $180 million internationally, for a $587 million launch.
But it’s not all good news for the movie business. No Way Home’s success literally came at the expense of everything else.
I am the doom-and-gloomer who has been predicting for years that movie-viewing will shift primarily to the home, as non-tentpole, adult-oriented fare gets muscled out of the multiplex by superheroes and Star Wars. The pandemic has hastened this eventuality, and this weekend is the starkest preview yet of what a post-pandemic cinema landscape could look like. West Side Story didn’t open well, and it’s not finding legs, either, plummeting 68% in its second week, sitting at $17 million and change, which is dismal given its $100 million budget. Similarly, Nightmare Alley failed to find an audience, opening with just under $3 million. The budget on that one is “only” $60 million, but even with a lower threshold to profitability, it just ain’t happening. And theaters are going to be even tighter this week, with The Matrix Resurrections and The King’s Man arriving for the holiday, competing for whatever scraps Spider-Man has to spare.
So, what does this mean in the long run for movies and movie theaters? It means that even big-name directors like Spielberg might struggle to secure those theatrically exclusive releases they so crave. At least, with the traditional ninety-day window. That is dead FOR SURE. It might also help if they’re pitching movies with lower budgets. $100 million adult-oriented films are going to get scarcer. Movie theaters, meanwhile, will survive in some fashion. There might not be as many—less movies playing in theaters means less theaters—but people DO like going to the movies. It’s just not going to be a weekly, or even monthly, activity the way it was 20+ years ago. We’ll see more of what happened this weekend—massive crowds turning out for a single title playing on every screen in the multiplex, and if you want to see something else, you either have to go at an off-peak time like before noon or after ten PM, or go out of your way to a local arthouse, if you’re lucky enough to have one in your area. Not everyone does. A lot of people are going to be at the mercy of their nearest chain theater.
Which by the time the next Spider-Man movie comes out, Disney could have their own Disney-branded theater chain, where the only title playing will be Spider-Man 4: Undoing That Last One, and you can show up early and have your picture taken with a Spider-Man performer like in Disney theme parks. And if the only movie theater near you is the Disney theater, you won’t have any options but whatever Disney wants you to see. And so the bricks on Disney’s walled garden approach to entertainment grow ever higher and more inescapable.
Attached: Marisa Tomei outside Late Night With Seth Meyers last week.
Live long and gossip,