The live-action adaptation starring Tobey Maguire as the Marvel Comics web-slinger shattered box-office records with a $114 million debut, surpassing the previous best of $90.3 million taken in by "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" during its first three days last fall.
With $39.3 million on Friday and $43.7 million on Saturday, director Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" also beat the single-day record of $33.5 million set by "Harry Potter" in its second day, according to studio figures Sunday.
"Not in our wildest expectations or dreams" did the filmmakers anticipate such demand for "Spider-Man," said Amy Pascal, head of Sony's Columbia Pictures, which released the film. The studio would have been thrilled with a debut in the $70 million to $80 million range, she said.
Playing in 3,615 theaters, "Spider-Man" averaged $31,535 per location, a new high for films opening in 3,000 or more cinemas, running about $7,000 ahead of the old record held by "Harry Potter." "Spider-Man" also was the fastest movie to reach $100 million, passing "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace," which both took five days to climb to $105 million.
"I don't think there's a distribution record in history that hasn't been shattered," said Jeff Blake, Sony president of worldwide marketing and distribution. "That $100 million opening weekend has always been sort of a great white whale of the movie business. To have `Spider-Man' capture it is just thrilling."
With few big films opening this past weekend or next, "Spider-Man" has a fairly wide-open field until the new "Star Wars" film opens May 16.
This past weekend brought two other modest debuts. "Deuces Wild," a street-gang drama starring Matt Dillon, opened at No. 7 with $2.7 million, averaging a weak $1,824 in 1,480 theaters.
Woody Allen's comedy "Hollywood Ending" tied for 10th place, grossing $2.2 million in 765 theaters for a $2,876 average.
Overall, the top 12 movies grossed $153.3 million, up 54 percent from the same weekend last year, when "The Mummy Returns" debuted. "Spider-Man" accounted for nearly three-fourths of revenues among the top 12 films.
Ubiquitous marketing, an audience built up through 40 years of comic readership, solid action and visual effects and a tale of an ordinary, misfit youth helped draw an across-the-board audience to "Spider-Man." The crowds were split about 50-50 between men and women and viewers older and younger than 25, Blake said.
"It is a very universal story everybody can relate to," Pascal said. "He's a completely misunderstood guy that nobody recognizes and who just wants to do good. He's not a hero from planet Krypton. He's all of us."
The success of "Spider-Man" bodes well for Hollywood's overall summer, which is crowded with marquee titles including new "Star Wars," "Men in Black," "Austin Powers," "Stuart Little" and "Spy Kids" movies.
"Spider-Man" also sets a benchmark few films will be able to rival.
"This sets a new gold standard by which the rest of the summer blockbusters are going to be judged," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "Everybody's going to have to try and live up to `Spider-Man."'
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Spider-Man," $114 million.
2. "The Scorpion King," $9.6 million.
3. "Changing Lanes," $5.6 million.
4. "Murder by Numbers," $3.8 million.
5. "The Rookie," $3.3 million.
6. "Life or Something Like It," $3.28 million.
7. "Deuces Wild," $2.7 million.
8. "Ice Age," $2.5 million.
9. "Jason X," $2.4 million.
10 (tie). "Hollywood Ending," $2.2 million.
10 (tie). "Panic Room," $2.2 million.