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Spider-Man Saves AMC (At Least for a Weekend)

The latest MCU offering breaks box office records.

It looks like everyone’s favorite wall-crawling superhero has swung to the rescue, again. 

Approximately 1.1 million people watched the latest Marvel film “Spider-Man: No Way Home” yesterday, according to statements from the theater chains Cinemark  (CNK) - Get Cinemark Holdings, Inc. Report and AMC  (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report, with the latter noting “it was single highest number of people watching one movie on one day at AMC’s U.S. theatres during all of calendar years 2020 and 2021. “

Additionally, Cinemark pointed out that according to their numbers, this was the first time many people came out to see something at a movie theater at all since the pandemic began last year.

The latest Marcel Cinematic offering, which was produced in partnership with Disney  (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report and Sony  (SNE) - Get Sony Corp. Report, is expected to have an opening weekend box office total of approximately $150 million.

Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theaters, Tweeted this morning about yesterday’s box office returns and he seems understandably excited, pointing out that the film had the biggest opening day grosses for a December movie ever, and was the second biggest opening at AMC of all time. 

Super Results For Superhero Films

Aron also couldn’t but thumb his nose at the naysayers a bit.

“Meanwhile mainstream media keeps writing that movie theatres are dead,” he Tweeted. “Isn’t it inconvenient for “conventional wisdom” when facts make mincemeat of the doomsday pessimism.”

Analysts were predicting a strong opening for the film, as the demand for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” crashed AMC and other advanced ticket websites when they went on sale last month. But this is still a surprising haul, and after the soft-opening for Stephen Spielberg’s buzzed about remake of “West Side Story,” a welcome bit of good news for theater owners.

While overall a step-up from the dismal 2020, this has been a tough year for theater owners. Audiences have returned to theaters, but only in fits and starts, and it would seem, only for a certain kind of film.

According to Box Office Mojo, the five biggest films of the year were all blockbusters, and four out of five of them were superhero films.

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1. "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," Gross: $224,543,292

2. "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" Gross: $212,172,195

3. "Black Widow," Gross: $183,651,655

4. "F9: The Fast Saga," Gross: $173,005,945

5. "Eternals," Gross: $162,211,240

But these numbers just underscore that theaters are having an increasingly difficult time getting people to come out for anything that isn’t a blockbuster, franchise installment or family friendly cartoon, as Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” the sort of adult-aimed drama that Hollywood used to specialize in, had the 27th biggest box office total, a solid but unspectacular $42,640,025.

Superheroes Are Not Enough?

As we previously reported, the U.K.-based analysis firm Gower Street Analytics is predicting that the 2022 global box office will reach $33.2 billion, a 58% increase from this year. Analysts are predicting that this year will see a final box office total of $21 billion.

Gower Street also believes that things won’t truly rebound for the film industry until 2023, as next year is set to have 20% less than the box office takes than between 2017 and 2019. 

But even if we eventually return to the pre-pandemic box office levels of more than $40 billion total, it’s worth remembering that theaters were struggling with attendances before COVID-19 hit, as the viewing audience has more options than ever, and many consumers have made the choice that they will only come out for event films, and will instead catch mid-budget films and awards fare on their streaming services.

That change in viewing habits has taken a bite out of theaters’ bottom lines. AMC reported a net loss of $13.5 million in 2019, even as total revenue was up 2.4% to $1.448 billion from the year before. AMC also lost $224 million in Q3 and $1.13 billion year-to-date, so even if things continue to improve, theater chains are likely to continue to struggle with profitability. After all, there’s only so many superhero films out there, and the next MCU offering, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” won’t open until next year.