LA Premiere of "Spider-Man: No Way Home"

A person dressed as Spider-Man arrives at the premiere of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” at the Regency Village Theater on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, in Los Angeles. —Photos: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

LOS ANGELES — For nearly two years, ever since the pandemic brought moviegoing to a halt, Hollywood has been consumed with a creeping dread. What if the movies never bounce back? What if the naysayers writing big-screen epitaphs are right?

So the sense of relief — elation — that washed through the movie capital over the weekend, as “Spider-Man: No Way Home” arrived to sensational ticket sales, was palpable. “Have you seen The Daily Bugle headline?” Thomas E. Rothman, Sony’s movie chairman, said by phone, referring to the tabloid newspaper in the Spider-Man comics. “Spidey Saves the Day!”

“No Way Home” collected an estimated $253 million at theaters in the United States and Canada, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. Not only did more than 20 million people leave their homes to see a blockbuster movie, prying themselves away from their streaming services, but they faced down the omicron variant to do it — a reflection, box office analysts said, of the film’s novel “multiverse” storytelling, a pent-up desire to be part of a big cultural moment, and, perhaps, weariness with the impingement of the pandemic on their lives.

It was the highest opening-weekend result in the 19-year history of the eight-film, live-action "Spider-Man" franchise. And it was the third-highest in the overall Hollywood history books, behind “Avengers: Endgame” ($357 million) and “Avengers: Infinity War” ($258 million).

“No Way Home,” directed by Jon Watts and re-teaming Tom Holland as Peter Parker and Zendaya as MJ, collected an additional $334.2 million overseas, according to Sony.

“The ‘Spider-Man’ numbers are sensational, but until COVID recedes and is considered something like the flu, the business is not out of the woods,” David A. Gross, who runs the film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, said in an email.

Look no further than “Nightmare Alley,” a lavish noir thriller with an all-star cast that arrived in 2,145 North American theaters on Friday. It collected a disastrous $3 million, a result that Gross called “a reminder of the parts of the business that are still broken.”

Movies aimed at older moviegoers — “Nightmare Alley,” “West Side Story,” “King Richard,” “The Last Duel” — have been struggling at the box office, held back in part because older women, in particular, remain concerned about the coronavirus, analysts say. In addition, audiences do not seem to be in the mood for dark and dour, and “Nightmare Alley” is pitch black.

The New York Times

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