The pandemic has crushed the box office almost to dust. It looked like there was no home when movies like James Bond's latest outing No Time to Die underperformed, and Steven Spielberg's West Side Story struggled to find an audience willing to show up for it.
Then came Spider-Man.
Marvel's newest Spider-Man: Now Way Home opened to $253 million domestic and $587,200,000 worldwide.
Yes, in one weekend it became the highest-grossing movie of 2021. But it also certified many things we believe to be true about the movie business right now. It means that high-performing intellectual property is the most valuable thing studios can have, it means Marvel is the most valuable purchase by Disney over the last 20 years (more so than Star Wars), and it means that the trend of movie theaters pushing tentpoles is the way of the future.
On a weekend where Nightmare Alley and West Side Story were afterthoughts, Spider-Man swooped in and captured an audience share unafraid to go to the movies, willing to watch something hopeful, and eager to do so on the big screen. While this younger-skewing demo has been served other Marvel movies this year, Like Eternals and Shang-Chi, it didn't nearly show up as enthusiastically for them.
It did for Spider-Man thanks to recognizable characters proven through previous iterations to be a crowd-pleaser.
While other studios like WB have experienced with day-and-date, and Disney has even simultaneously released other titles for rent at home, the Marvel wing has consistently drawn in people, even when the box office has been doomed by a worldwide pandemic. It defied all expectations.
So where does the box office go from here? And what ripple effects will be felt?
I think you're about to see a definitive turn away from mid-budget movies aimed at adults. Those will probably go to streamers. And again, there will be an insane influx of intellectual property determined to draw younger viewers to theaters. Especially with other variants of COVID popping up all over the globe.
You're also probably going to see studios shifting releases of films, especially ones that are bleak. Mostly because Spider-Man is so cheery and hopeful, it might have helped the movie open so widely. People just wanted some escapism.
Time will tell, but let us know what you think in the comments.