Sony Animation’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is off and swinging at the box office, grossing a massive $17.4 million from 3,500 theaters.
That total is well above the $3.5 million that this sequel’s 2018 Oscar-winning predecessor “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” earned from Thursday previews en route to a mid-December $35 million opening. “Across the Spider-Verse” was projected to earn more than double that with tracking at an $80 million-plus launch, with rival distributors projecting an opening of over $90 million.
With this sky-high preview result, the second-biggest ever for an animated film behind “Incredibles 2” ($18.5 million toward a $183 million opening weekend) in 2018, Sony should be looking at a $100 million-plus opening, possibly above $125 million considering the strong reviews, likely-to-be-strong buzz and goodwill from the previous Miles Morales flick.
Yes, it’s an unusually long animated film, running 140 minutes, but extended runtimes aren’t generally an issue for films like “Avengers: Endgame,” “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” where the whole family can tag along.
It also bested the Thursday previews of several recent Sony superhero films like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” ($15.4 million for a $117 million debut), “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” ($11.6 million/$90 million) and “Spider-Man 3” ($10 million/$151 million). If it legs this weekend like those two more recent examples — Raimi’s third “Spider-Man” broke the Fri-Sun opening weekend record in 2007 back when box office was less tilted toward the preview grosses — it’ll end the weekend between $132 million and $135 million.
Yes, it’s a family-friendly animated feature, which tends to pull a lot less of their opening weekend earnings from preview grosses because parents are waiting until the weekend to take their kids. But Thursday grosses like this, on par with live-action fan-driven tentpoles, means the safer comparison will be live-action franchise flicks.
Even Thursday-to-weekend legs on par with the “Twilight Saga” sequels and later “Harry Potter” installments (around 20% of the weekend from Thursday previews) give this one an $87 million launch, well above Sony Animation’s previous high water mark (“Hotel Transylvania 2” with $47 million in 2015). However, those were long-running franchises that had become “for fans only” affairs by the end. The “Spider-Verse” fanbase is still on the upswing.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is getting just as strong critical acclaim as “Into the Spider-Verse” with a 96% fresh and 8.7/10 average critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While presales were soft compared to other summer superhero films, the film’s very strong word of mouth will likely allow it to perform above expectations when it comes to walk-up ticket sales.
Barring a downright implausible collapse after Thursday night, “Across the Spider-Verse” is becoming a breakout sequel akin to “Scream 2,” “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” “Pitch Perfect 2” and “John Wick: Chapter 2.” This is a clear case of a surprisingly good predecessor which earned better-than-expected reviews and buzz, but which also was a solid but not spectacular hit that legged out in theaters and then found new fans in post-theatrical, with all of that goodwill paying off for the next installment.
“Across the Spider-Verse” also comes as Disney has ceded its position as the dominant force at the animation box office, opening the door for Illumination and other animation studios to gain a bigger theatrical foothold. While Sony Pictures Animation has had some hits like “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise, “Across the Spider-Verse” has the chance to set a new record for the studio, with its best box office performer being its 2011 adaptation of “The Smurfs” with $563 million worldwide.
The weekend’s other new release, 20th Century Studios’ “The Boogeyman,” earned $1.1 million in Thursday previews. The PG-13 horror flick — directed by Rob Savage — was initially slated to be a Hulu premiere before strong test scores led to Disney promoting it to a wide theatrical launch. As such, anything above $10 million would arguably be a relative win for the Stephen King adaptation, especially with little in the way of horror movie competition for much of the summer.