By Seth Kelley
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Spider-Man is officially a box office overachiever.
As of Sunday morning, the latest cinematic depiction of the webbed-hero, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," is looking at a $117 million opening from 4,348 locations. $10.6 million of the domestic total came from 392 Imax screens. That's a huge win for Sony, Columbia Pictures, and Marvel Studios for the film, which cost roughly $175 million to produce. The anticipated opening weekend is higher than industry estimates, which were in the $90 million to $110 million range, while the studio cautiously pegged it at $80 million.
"Everyone at Sony and Marvel are thrilled," said Josh Greenstein, Sony's marketing chief. "It's safe to say it's a triumphant return for Spider-Man."
"Homecoming" banked on the idea that the summer box office was craving a family-friendly superhero movie -- Tom Holland plays a high school version of Peter Parker who, at 15 years old, has to prove that he is worthy of being called an Avenger. And it seems that bet is paying off. The $117 million figure is the second largest in Sony Pictures history, behind "Spider-Man 3."
Much attention has been paid to the flick's successful marketing campaign, which heavily featured Iron Man (Robert Downy Jr.), who serves as Spider-Man's mentor in the film. Michael Keaton plays the big bad, Vulture, Jon Favreau plays Spidey's guardian, Happy Hogan, and Zendaya stars as Michelle Jones ("MJ"), Parker's brainy classmate. The movie consistently dominated social media in the weeks leading up to its release.
Before "Homecoming," Jon Watts directed two much lower-budget feature films -- the 2014 horror movie "Clown" and 2015's "Cop Car" starring Kevin Bacon. He also has a handful of writing and producing credits, and is one of six writers credited on the "Homecoming" script. Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal share production credit. While the former has proven essentially infallible in the biz, "Homecoming" serves as a redemption narrative for the latter. After the infamous 2014 Sony hack, Pascal was ousted from her post at the top of the studio, and began to focus on producing. This is her second major release following last summer's "Ghostbusters" reboot, but she also has a hand in a long list of upcoming projects including Sony's "Barbie" movie, Steven Spielberg's A-list-studded "The Papers," and future "Spider-Man" movies.
"We have incredible partners," said Greenstein, who said that those relationships helped the film to be "embraced in a big way. It really shows the strength for this beloved character."
Despite the reliability of superhero movies at the box office, "Homecoming" could have been seen as a big bet for all parties involved. For one, it's the third iteration of the character in the past 15 years -- before Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire donned the Spidey suit. The makers had to trust that audiences would be ready to see the character yet again. On top of that, the summer box office has not been particularly kind to the sequels and reboots that have become the industry's summer signature. As audience fatigue has impacted previously reliable franchises like "Transformers" and even "Despicable Me," the one thing that this summer has proved is that the domestic audience is not yet burnt out on superheroes.
This is yet another Marvel movie release that has managed to capture the approval of critics and audience members -- something the DC Extended Universe could not claim until this summer with "Wonder Woman." But Marvel's been there since the beginning. "Homecoming" currently has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and an A CinemaScore.
"Homecoming" is the only major release this weekend, so the rest of the top five are made up to familiar faces. Starting with "Despicable Me 3," which is headed for a $34 million second frame, or a 53% drop from last weekend. "Baby Driver" should sit comfortable in third, as positive word of a mouth is steering to a $12.8 million second weekend, or a 38% drop. "Wonder Woman" continues to hold on with $10.1 million in its sixth weekend, and "Transformers: The Last Knight" should round out the top five with $6.3 million.
Kumail Nanjiani's "The Big Sick" is entering the top ten as it expands toward wide release, starting next Friday. From 326 North American theaters this weekend the movie should make $3.7 million. Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled" should stay in the top ten as it, too, expands. This weekend it's expected to make $2.1 million from 941 locations. Meanwhile, A24's "A Ghost Story" starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck should spook $105,000 from four locations during its opening frame.
Overall, the summer box office stands at about $2.3 billion, or 8% lower than last year. That leaves the year overall about dead even with 2016 after movies like "Beauty and the Beast," "Logan," "Get Out" and "The Fate of the Furious" laid a strong foundation for the summer during the early part of the calendar year.
"Despite the strength of 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' yet another 'down' weekend puts us dead even with last year's box office pace as we remain down 8% for the summer," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. "The silver lining is the expected continued strength of Spidey, plus 'War For The Planet of The Apes,' 'Dunkirk,' and 'Atomic Blonde' all in rapid succession that could fuel a much-needed late summer renaissance at the multiplex."