The box office is rising from the dead — even as Omicrom looms and the pandemic’s end is nowhere in sight.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” ignited the US box office this weekend, shattering pandemic-era records with $260 million in ticket sales — the best box office debut in 2021.

The action-packed superhero flick also scored the second-best opening of all time behind “Avengers: Endgame,” which reeled in $357.1 million in 2019, and it narrowly bested 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” which booked sales of $257.7 million, Sony said Monday.

The blockbuster, which stars Tom Holland as Spider-Man alongside Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jamie Foxx and Willem Dafoe, delivered a much-needed jolt to movie theater chains like AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas parent Cineworld that have struggled to bring in crowds during the pandemic.

According to research firm Gower Street Analytics, the North American box office is projected to hit $9.2 billion in 2022, up from an estimated $4.4 billion in 2021. If those trends hold, North American would move back to its pre-pandemic position as the No. 1 global box office market, edging out China, which grabbed the top spot in 2020 and is on track to do it again in 2021.

The research firm expects China to hit $8.28 billion in 2022. But there is still much uncertainty as the omicron variant tears across the US. Still, Sony execs and media watchers crowed at the wild success of the latest “Spider-Man” flick, which packed in moviegoers over the weekend.

“No Way Home” scored the second-best opening of all time behind “Avengers: Endgame” and ahead of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett

Sony said “No Way Home” brought in $121.5 million on Friday, including $50 million from Thursday night preview shows. Sony reported that the movie added $73.8 million on Saturday and an estimated $57.3 million in ticket sales by the end of Sunday.

Internationally, “No Way Home” grossed $334.2 million from 60 overseas markets, leading to a $587.2 million global haul, the third-highest worldwide opening of all time.

NO WAY HOME, Tom Holland as Spider-Man
“No Way Home” surpassed movie experts expectations, bringing in $253 million in the US in its opening weekend.
©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, Willem Dafoe, as Green Goblin
Despite a spike in the coronavirus across the US, moviegoers flocked to cinemas to see the new Spider-Man flick.
©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett

“This is proof positive that moviegoers will turn out when the right film comes along,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations told CNBC. “That’s a win for the studios … the studios with a multiverse of IP, that is.”

While movie experts expected “No Way Home” to surpass $100 million during its opening weekend, which no other film has managed to do during the pandemic, it was uncertain whether enough moviegoers would return to the cinema amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the US. The omicron variant of COVID-19 has exploded across the country in the last week, even infecting the fully vaccinated.

Cast members Benedict Wong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya and Tom Holland pose for a photograph as they attend the premiere for the film Spider-Man: No Way Home in Los Angeles, California, December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo/File Photo
According to analysts, roughly 20 million people are expected to see “No Way Home” in movie theaters.
REUTERS

Roughly 20 million people are expected to see “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” according to Steve Buck, the chief strategy officer for EntTelligence, a research firm. That is more attendance than every home game during a National Football League season, he told CNBC, adding that nine out of every 10 moviegoers saw “Spider-Man” this weekend.

Fans arrive to see the premiere of the movie 'Spiderman No Road Home', in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” was the first film in the pandemic era to cross $100 million in its opening weekend.
EPA

“We are living through box office history and a moment that will be referenced for years to come,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore told CNBC. ”‘No Way Home’ took command of movie theaters around the world and captivated an audience hungry for the kind of pure cinematic escapist fun that only the communal environment of the movie theater can provide.”

Read More