Box Office: ‘Spider-Man’ passes ‘Black Panther,’ and now it’s gunning for ‘Avatar’

If you pay any attention to the box office, you’re sure to have heard already about how “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has been dominating, but this over Martin Luther King Day weekend it hit another milestone – $700 million!

Only four other movies have reached that number in North America. The first of them was James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which in 2009 broke the box office record that had been held by the director’s previous hit, “Titanic,” by making $760.5 million domestically. “Titanic” had been sitting on its $659 million domestic box office record for over 20 years, and “Spider-Man” already passed that number a week ago. Six years after “Avatar,” the sci-fi revival “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” absolutely destroyed the record, grossing $936.6 million after opening with nearly $250 million.

“Spider-Man” opened with $260.1 million on the same weekend in December as “The Force Awakens” did, although this film has been quite a bit slower to get to $700 million. That opening weekend also pales in comparison to another Marvel blockbuster, 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame,” which opened with $357.1 million on its way to $858.4 million domestically.

Right now, “No Way Home” has just surpassed 2018’s “Black Panther” and its $700.4 million with the (estimated) $25 million it made over the past four-day weekend, so now it’s time to chase “Avatar.” It should make another $20 to 22 million over the next six days, and then the amounts will slowly dissipate with each successive week.

We’re no longer living in the times when “Titanic” could be the number-one movie for 15 weeks in a row. Eventually, high-profile new movies will get released. That happens on February 4 when the return of the MTV pranksters in “Jackass Forever” and Roland Emmerich’s disaster epic “Moonfall” get wide releases. Oh, that’s also the weekend when the Winter Olympics start, and then other movies will open over holiday weekends like Valentine’s Day and President’s Day. “No Way Home” is also going to be put on VOD eventually, reportedly in late February. Once people no longer have to go out to see the movie, all bets are off.

On the plus side for “Spider-Man,” while “Scream” might stay ahead of it at next weekend’s box office, if the horror sequel behaves like many other horror sequels, it will have a bigger drop, so Spidey will have a chance to make up some ground in ticket sales. And then on the weekend of January 28 there isn’t a single new wide release, so that gives the “Spider-Man” movie even more time to make up the money.

What’s interesting is that the two other movies in the $700 million club — “Black Panther” and “Avatar” — received Best Picture nominations, as did “Titanic” just below that amount. “Avengers: Endgame” and “The Force Awakens” were even more popular than all three of those movies, at least going by the box office, but they weren’t nominated. So “No Way Home” is a bona fide box office champ, and maybe 700 will be Spidey’s lucky number at the Oscars too.

Probably even more astounding about what’s going on with “Spider-Man” right now is that we’re still in a pandemic and contending with the much more infectious and contagious Omicron variant, which adds further unpredictability to the overall box office story. Many of our friends, families, and acquaintances who have been vaccinated and boosted have tested positive with breakthrough cases. But the showing for “Spider-Man” proves that theatrical moviegoing is still alive and mostly well … for certain movies at least.

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