‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ and ‘Past Lives’: The Portrait of a Healthy, Happy Box Office

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony) is this summer’s first movie to exceed expectations and not a moment too soon, as the season’s total lags behind 2022. With $120.5 million, Sony’s animated Marvel sequel has grossed 60 percent of the 2018 original. That’s double what advance tracking indicated just over a week ago.

One reason was a terrific critical response, with an 87 Metacritic score that stands as the best for a wide studio release since “Little Women” in December 2019. It opened the same day as “Past Lives” (A24), which has the year’s best Metacritic score of 92 and now stands as the second-best specialized per-theater average of over $58,000, grossing $232,266 in four New York/Los Angeles theaters. (“Beau Is Afraid” reached $80,000).

“Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3” and “The Little Mermaid” saw respectable debuts that didn’t reach the heights of their precedents, but “Spider-Verse” had additional advantages.

The original “Spider-Verse” was a surprise success in 2018. It faced uncertainty in how Marvel would translate to animation, but the result was a domestic gross of just under $200 million, about double expectations. It opened on a normally dead mid-December weekend with $35 million, sustained a strong run through the holidays, and won the Oscar for Animated Feature.

Since then, 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” became the biggest grossing domestic release since 2019. Factor in the very strong reviews along with the goodwill from the first film, and the only surprising element becomes the film’s initial lowball projections.

“Barbie”screenshot/Warner Bros.

It suggests an eager audience for a critically acclaimed film that promises a fun experience. (The former is not a necessity — see: “Super Mario Bros.” — but it can help.) If that formula holds true, there’s reason for optimism in highly anticipated upcoming titles like “Barbie,” “The Flash” and “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning: Part 1.”

“Spider-Verse” starts with an additional $88 million foreign take, for $208.6 million worldwide. Key territories Japan, China, and South Korea have yet to open. It would take a very strong hold for this to approach $1 billion, especially among potentially intense summer competition. For Sony it’s all good: With a reported $100 million production cost, the film’s profit margin is in far better shape than “Guardians,” “Fast X,” and “Mermaid.” Each of those titles cost between $200 million- $300 million+ in reported production costs, and all head to total grosses of $850 million or less.

“The Boogeyman” (Disney) also opened, reaching #3 with $12.3 million. The Fox production cost a modest $35 million. Its theatrical release suggests that Disney is downplaying streaming premieres and the gross is about $2 million better than the similar “Barbarian” last September. With great word-of-mouth, “Barbarian” went on to an impressive four-times multiple to reach $40 million.

Disney’s “Mermaid” at #2 dropped more than expected at 58 percent (“Aladdin” in 2019 fell 53 percent), but “Spider-Verse” likely played a part. The film’s bigger problem is its weak foreign showing of $141 million to $186 million domestic. This could struggle to reach $500 million worldwide — not the anticipated result for a $250 million film.

At #4, Disney’s “Guardians” passed $322 million domestic and now stands at $780 million worldwide. That’s decent for sure, but again below the $1 billion normally assumed for the first Marvel summer release.

It beat out “Fast X,” which dropped 60 percent in its third weekend. In three weeks, the latest installment of the Vin Diesel franchise (with a reported $340 million production cost) has grossed slightly more than “Spider-Verse” did in three days. “Fast X” foreign stands at $475 million, but the combined number of $603 million is far short of its goal.

This weekend looks like about $204 million total. That places it just behind Easter weekend with its “SMB” debut as best for 2023. It betters both last year ($177 million) and 2019 ($173 million). Year to date is steady at 28 percent above 2022; if sustained, it would lead to around $9.5 billion. The four-week rolling comparison to 2019 rises to 88 percent.

“Past Lives”

The “Past Lives” debut is a specialized-distribution godsend. Its platform placement amid elevated media cheerleading positioned it well, but you might have said the same about “The Fabelmans,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” and “TÁR;” all opened to per-theater averages under $50,000. A24’s “Aftersun,” opened to $60,000 in four theaters.

Platform openings like this don’t guarantee crossover success. A24’s “The Whale” opened to $352,000 in six; buttressed by a Christmas expansion and star Brendan Fraser’s Oscar, it crossed $17 million.

A24 will move more slowly with a three-stage expansion, reaching wide release June 23. Even $10 million would be a significant achievement.

The Top 10

1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 87; Est. budget: $100 million

$120,500,000 in theaters; PTA (per theater average): $27,939; Cumulative: $120,500,000

2. The Little Mermaid (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$40,600,000 (-58%) in 4,320 theaters (no change); PTA: $9,398; Cumulative: $186,207,000

3. The Boogeyman (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: B-; Metacritic: 56; Est. budget: $35 million

$12,300,000 in 3,205 theaters; PTA: $3,838; Cumulative: $12,300,000

4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Disney) Week 6; Last weekend #3

$10,200,000 (-51%) in 3,580 (-360) theaters; PTA: $2,849; Cumulative: $322,711,000

5. Fast X (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$9,240,000 (-60%) in 3,467 (-621) theaters; PTA: $2,665; Cumulative: $128,466,000

6. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal) Week 9; Last weekend #4; also on PVOD

$3,350,000 (-48%) in 2,344 (-804) theaters; PTA: $1,429; Cumulative: $566,277,000

7. About My Father (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$2,100,000 (-51%) in 2,464 (no change) theaters; PTA: $852; Cumulative: $8,824,000

8. The Machine (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #5

$1,750,000 (-726%) 2,409 (no change) theaters; PTA: $726; Cumulative: $8,708,000

9. You Hurt My Feelings (A24) Week 2; Last weekend #8

$769,814 (-45%) in 912 (no change) theaters; PTA: $844; Cumulative: $3,001,000

10. Kandadar (Open Road/Briarcliff) Week 2; Last weekend #7

$765,000 (-67%) 1,737 (-368) theaters; PTA: $440; Cumulative: $4,237,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.

Past Lives (A24) NEW – Metacritic: 94; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin 2024

$232,266 in 4 theaters; PTA: $58,067

The Roundup: No Way Out (Blue Fox) NEW

$200,000 in 41 theaters; PTA: $4,878

Falcon Lake (Yellow Veil) NEW – Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2022

$9,100 in 10 theaters; PTA: $910

Sanctuary (Neon) Week 3

$183,000 in 225 (+215) theaters; Cumulative: $337,351

Book Club: The Next Chapter (Focus) Week 4; also on PVOD

$200,000 in 382 (-957) theaters; Cumulative: $17,070,000

BlackBerry (IFC) Week 4; also on VOD

$(U.S. only) 38,000 in 55 (-142) theaters; Cumulative: $1,387,000

It Ain’t Over (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$30,910 in 39 (-18) theaters; Cumulative: $401,566

Chevalier (Searchlight) Week 7; also on PVOD

$12,000 in 70 (-15) theaters; Cumulative: $3,465,000

Somewhere in Queens (Roadside Attractions) Week 7

$17,190 in 23 (-9) theaters; Cumulative: $1,736,000

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