“Spider-Man 3” shattered box-office records with $151.1 million domestically and $382 million worldwide in just days, pulling in more people over opening weekend than any film ever has, according to studio figures Monday.
Domestically, Sony Pictures’ “Spider-Man 3” drew 22.5 million people in its first three days, based on an average ticket price of $6.70 estimated by box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
By comparison, 20.7 million people saw the previous record-holder, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” over its $135.6 million opening weekend, based on last year’s average ticket price of $6.55.
The 2002 average ticket price of $5.80 translates to 19.8 million people catching “Spider-Man” in its $114.8 million first weekend, which had held the box-office record until “Dead Man’s Chest” sailed in.
Why were fans so eager for this third chapter in the adventures of the Marvel Comics superhero?
Sony would not disclose how much was spent to promote the film, but the studio’s marketing mill was relentless, blanketing theaters, television and the Internet with trailers, teasers and other ads for “Spider-Man 3.”
The studio played up Spider-Man’s struggle with a new enemy — himself. Fans were intrigued by posters showing a black mirror image of Spidey’s red-and-blue outfit for the film, in which he is tempted to use his powers for evil after an alien entity infects his suit.
American audiences already eager to see “Spider-Man 3” were further stoked by the last-minute blast of publicity as the film opened Tuesday to record box-office numbers in France, Italy, South Korea and other countries.
Though Sony plans to make more “Spider-Man” movies, stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst spoke of the third installment as a conclusion of sorts, the end of a trilogy that wraps up the story arc developed in the first two films.
There also was speculation that director Sam Raimi, who made all three “Spider-Man” films, would move on to something else, and that Maguire and Dunst might not want to return for more movies without him.
“A lot of audiences felt this could be the end of an era, the last of the original cast, so the urgency of having to see it was just amped up,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. “There’s also the fact that people liked the first two movies. Those weren’t throwaway films, so people knew they were going to get something heavier, something more substantial than the typical sequel.”
As the “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogies proved, fans love a big finish. So even if this was not the end for “Spider-Man,” Maguire and Dunst’s trilogy talk and the uncertainty over whether the filmmaking team would be back brought an air of finality to part three.
“I’d love to have the whole gang back,” said Amy Pascal, Sony Pictures co-chairman. “We’ve been a family making these last three movies together, but we will be making more ‘Spider-Mans.”’
The film set a new single-day record of $59.8 million domestically in its Friday debut, topping the $55.8 million opening day of “Dead Man’s Chest.” “Spider-Man 3” also had the biggest day ever worldwide with $117.6 million Saturday.
Soaring budget costs are the norm for a movie business that relies more and more on action-packed spectacles. Such franchise films have a ready-made audience that Hollywood can count on to turn up in huge numbers, diminishing the risks of their enormous budgets.
“The movies cost what they need to cost in order to tell the story that we set out to tell,” Pascal said. “There were a lot of big effects in this movie that required a kind of scale.”