“Spider-Man: No Way Home” Has Third-Biggest Opening Ever


December 17-19, 2021

(estimates from BoxOfficeMojo.com)


Spider-Man: No Way Home $253 million
Encanto $6.5 million
West Side Story $3.4 million
Ghostbusters: Afterlife $3.4 million
Nightmare Alley $2.9 million

If there's a record you can think of, Spider-Man: No Way Home probably broke it. December opening? Check. Spider-Man movie? Check. Biggest opening since the pandemic started? By a lot. In fact, it's the first movie to open to more than $100 million since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It blew away even Sony's biggest expectations by $120 million. Even though this was the fifth Marvel movie released this year, No Way Home was the first one that felt like a big deal. It eclipsed the highest-grossing movie of the year (Shang-Chi) in just three days, and has already made half a billion dollars worldwide. To call it the year's biggest movie is an understatement.

But this sudden surge in theater attendance was bad news for everything else. Encanto remained in second place, but has only crossed $80 million in four weeks. Disney+ is putting it up on Christmas Eve at no additional charge, which means it's unlikely to see a holiday surge. (It probably wouldn't have had one anyway, with Sing 2 opening in theaters the same day.) West Side Story and Ghostbusters: Afterlife essentially tied for third place. The former has received tons of accolades and year-end awards, but hasn't even made $20 million. The latter got mostly mixed reviews, but fans slopped it up and made it a legitimate hit.

That meant my beloved Nightmare Alley languished. A film by an Oscar-winning director like Guillermo Del Toro shouldn't have been left to die like this. Its anemic $2.9 million opening means we've probably seen the last of lavish period dramas, or at least ones not tied to the Harry Potter universe. It's a sad weekend for people who want to see more than just superhero movies.

Outside the top 5:

  • This Weekend's Indie Champ: Licorice Pizza remains undefeated, averaging another $22,293 on the same quartet of screens it's played on for a month. It goes wide on Christmas Day.
  • Despite being hailed as an early Oscar contender, Belfast dropped 77 percent this weekend, and has only earned a weak $6.7 million so far.
  • Pop quiz: If a movie sees a 97 percent increase over its previous week, is it doing well or doing poorly? The answer is both, as the Julia Child documentary Julia earned more this week than last, but it also added more than 200 screens, which means it averaged only $74.

Next week:

The Matrix Resurrections takes on Sing 2 starting Wednesday, and both will leave The King's Man for dead. The Tender Bar, Licorice Pizza, American Underdog and A Journal for Jordan will barely be blips. And none of these will topple Spider-Man: No Way Home, which will add at least another $100 million to its tally. But The Matrix Resurrections and Sing 2 could easily make $50 million in five days.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.