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2021 box office closes with more fireworks for ‘Spider-Man’

Jake Coyle

NEW YORK (AP) – Hollywood closed out 2021 with more fireworks at the box office for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which topped all films for the third straight week and already charts among the highest grossing films ever.

The film industry heads into 2022 with plenty of reason for both optimism and concern after a year that saw overall ticket revenue double that of 2020, but still well off the pre-pandemic pace.

Movie theatres began the year mostly shuttered but ended it with a monster smash.

Sony Pictures’ Marvel sequel No Way Home grossed an estimated USD52.7 million over the weekend to bring its three-week total to USD609.9 million. That ranks 10th all-time in North America.

Worldwide, it’s made USD1.37 billion, a total that puts it above Black Panther and makes it the 12th highest grossing film globally.

No Way Home, Tom Holland’s third standalone film as the webslinger, gave a huge lift to the box-office recovery that started in earnest last spring when United States (US) cinemas opened after a year of COVID-19 closures.

A scene from the movie ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’. PHOTO: SONY ENTERTAINMENT

Marvel films dominated the turbulent year, accounting for the top four movies of 2021: No Way Home, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Black Widow.

The North American box office in 2021 amounted to USD4.5 billion, according to data firm ComScore. That’s about 60 per cent down from 2019 – back before the days of masked moviegoers, social distancing and virus variants like the currently surging Omicron.

Whether the movies will ever reach those pre-pandemic totals again is uncertain, given that exclusive theatrical windows have since shrunk, studios have experimented with hybrid releases and little besides superhero films are packing theatres.

Partly due to COVID-19 disruptions, the 2022 release schedule is unusually packed with potential blockbusters, including The Batman, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, Thor: Love and Thunder and Avatar 2.

Second place over the weekend went to Universal Picture’s animated sequel Sing 2. It took in USD19.6 million in its second weekend to bring its two-week total to USD89.7 million.

That’s a steady result given that family movies and films skewing toward older moviegoers have been the slowest to bounce back during the pandemic.

Sing 2 added another USD54.9 million internationally. It’s trajectory should make it the top animated release of the pandemic.

But after No Way Home and Sing 2, there was little that appealed to moviegoers over the
holiday weekend.

The King’s Man, the third instalment in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman series, grossed a modest USD4.5 million in its second week after a lackluster debut. But that was still good enough for third place. The Disney release, produced by 20th Century Studios, has made USD47.8 million globally.

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story sold USD2.1 million in tickets in its fourth weekend. While holding well (the film dropped 26 per cent from the week prior), the once-envisioned holiday upswing for the acclaimed musical hasn’t materialised. West Side Story has grossed a disappointing USD29.6 million domestically.

After flopping on its debut last week, Warner Bros’ The Matrix Resurrections dropped a steep 64 per cent in its second weekend with USD3.8 million. The film is simultaneously streaming on HBO Max, a 2021 practice that the studio has pledged to end in 2022. The long-in-coming Matrix reboot was even edged by the second week of the Kurt Warner NFL drama American Underdog, which grossed USD4.1 million for Lionsgate.

One of the only new releases of the week was Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, with Tilda Swinton. Its distributor, Neon, has laid out a novel strategy for the art-house release, playing the film in only one theatre at a time, with no plans for a future streaming or physical release. Memoria started its quixotic, cross-country journey with USD52,656 since opening on December 16 at New York’s IFC Center.