‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Breaks Franchise Records and Brings Hope to Box Offices

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“No Way Home” cost Sony and Disney at least $200 million to make, not including the price of a megawatt marketing campaign.

Movie theaters continue to face enormous obstacles, of course, not the least of which is the Omicron coronavirus variant, which has prompted a global surge of infections and tightened safety measures. “The ‘Spider-Man’ numbers are sensational, but until Covid recedes and is considered something like the flu, the business is not out of the woods,” David A. Gross, who runs the film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, said in an email.

Look no further than “Nightmare Alley,” a lavish noir thriller with an all-star cast that arrived in 2,145 North American theaters on Friday. It collected a disastrous $3 million, a result that Mr. Gross called “a reminder of the parts of the business that are still broken.” Directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, “Nightmare Alley” cost Searchlight Pictures, which is owned by Disney, an estimated $60 million to make.

Movies aimed at older moviegoers — “Nightmare Alley,” “West Side Story,” “King Richard,” “The Last Duel” — have been struggling at the box office, held back in part because older women, in particular, remain concerned about the coronavirus, analysts say. In addition, audiences do not seem to be in the mood for dark and dour, and “Nightmare Alley” is pitch black.

The long-brewing concern that superhero sequels and other fantasy spectacles are pushing more modest films out of theaters gained another proof point over the weekend. Steve Buck, the chief strategy officer for EntTelligence, a research firm, said that “No Way Home” represented 90 percent of film attendance overall; 62 percent of the seats at North American cinemas were dedicated to the movie, which played in 4,336 domestic locations.

Ticket buyers gave “No Way Home” a rare A-plus grade in CinemaScore exit polls, an indication that word of mouth will be strong and the film will continue to generate large sums in the weeks to come. The stretch between Christmas and New Year’s Day is traditionally the busiest moviegoing period of the year.