New York — Spider-Man: Homecoming swung past expectations, opening with an estimated $117m in North America and giving a Sony Pictures a much needed hit.
Homecoming was one of the biggest tests yet for the notion that domestic moviegoers are growing weary of sequels and reboots and suffering so-called "franchise fatigue." Homecoming kicks off the third Spider-Man iteration in the last 15 years, and the second reboot since 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man, with Andrew Garfield.
But Sony has kept Spider-Man airborne. For Homecoming, the studio returned to Spider-Man's teenage roots, casting Tom Holland in the part. Critics and audiences responded, with many calling Jon Watts' iteration one of the best Spider-Man films.
Sony also, for the first time, partnered with Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to produce the film and rope Homecoming into Marvel's wider cinematic universe. Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man appears as Spider-Man's mentor, and Michael Keaton plays the villain Vulture.
Those ingredients, along with a marketing effort that appealed to young moviegoers, pushed Homecoming to the best Spider-Man debut since 2007's Spider-Man 3. The film, made for about $175m, also grossed $140m internationally over the weekend.
"It's a triumphant return for Spider-Man," said Josh Greenstein, Sony Pictures' president of worldwide marketing and distribution. "It's an incredible win for Sony, for our partners at Marvel and Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal, who produced it."
"Even though there have been other Spider-Man movies, this film feels fresh and new and different and special, and I think that's what's really resonating with audiences right now," added Greenstein.
Great month for Sony
Sony has struggled in the years since the infamous cyber hack of 2014, after which Tom Rothman eventually replaced Pascal as studio chief. (Pascal has since turned to producing, including this and future Spider-Man instalments.) Box-office disappointments like the Dan Brown adaptation Inferno, Ang Lee's high-frame-rate gambit Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and the cultural flashpoint Ghostbusters have dotted its lineup.
But now, Sony has arguably the two biggest hits in the land: one a smartly recycled franchise, the other a quick and quirky original. Edgar Wright's acclaimed action-musical Baby Driver slid just 38% in its second week, coming in third with $12.8m. The movie, which cost $34m to produce, has already earned $56.9m domestically.
Last week's top film, Despicable Me 3, dropped to second with $34m.
As good as the news was for Sony, the weekend's results also proved a modern-day movie maxim: No one does franchise-building better than Marvel. Spider-Man is one of three major summer hits thus far, following the Marvel-Disney sequel "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2" and the Warner Bros.-D.C. Comics release Wonder Woman.
The latter success came only after several high-profile missteps in Warner Bros.' attempt to build a Marvel-style universe of films. Earlier this summer, Universal's plans for its Dark Universe of monster movies got off to a rocky start with the poorly performing The Mummy.
Sony's smartest move on Spider-Man: Homecoming might have been deciding to bring it into the Marvel fold.
"Nobody knows Marvel better than Marvel," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. They really understand the mythology of these characters, the legacy of these characters, and Spider-Man is one of the crown jewels of the superhero world. No way was Sony ever going to give up on Spider-Man. So what do they do? They collaborate more closely with Marvel, and it paid off handsomely this weekend."