Cinemas are gearing up for their biggest weekend since reopening, and their biggest Wednesday results in history, as Spider-Man: No Way Home hits screens.
The Marvel movie, which smashed records for ticket pre-sales and crashed cinema websites in both the UK and US, is expected to bring back audiences that have been avoiding the big screen or replaced it altogether with streaming services.
According to Odeon, the UK’s largest cinema chain, more than 400,000 advance tickets have now been sold, with half of those in the first week – surpassing the previous record set by Avengers: Endgame in 2019, and more than three times the advanced sales achieved by Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond in No Time to Die.
Carol Welch from Odeon Cinemas UK and Ireland said pre-sales for the film, starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker, showed “guests are loving being back at cinemas and are excited about the magic that our big screen experience brings to movies”.
At Vue, the film sold more than 150,000 tickets in the first 24 hours of going on sale, five times the first-day sales of No Time to Die – which was viewed as a watershed moment for the industry’s path to recovery after global lockdowns.
Vue Cinemas on Tuesday said the film “is expected to deliver our highest Wednesday results for any film in history in terms of admissions”.
After a day, it also took the throne as Cineworld’s highest ever pre-sales release.
No Way Home, directed by Jon Watts, is Holland’s sixth outing as Spider-Man and his third standalone film. Alongside Zendaya as MJ and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, the film also sees the return of villains from previous franchises which starred Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, including Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro.
The Guardian awarded the film three stars, calling it “a propulsive, slickly choreographed adventure that will appease a broad fanbase this Christmas”.
But it has been clouded in such secrecy that fans still don’t know whether their hopes of cameos from Maguire and Garfield will materialise. After tickets began to sell out, they began appearing on eBay for as much as $25,000 (£18,880).
Despite rolling headlines warning of a rise in Covid infections, and speculation that government-enforced restrictions may be just round the corner, on Tuesday morning on the Vue Leicester Square website at least three opening-day showings were sold out, with only a handful of individual tickets available for other times.
Phil Clapp, the chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, said cinema operators had been delighted with the excitement and anticipation shown by audiences for the film.
“That confirms not just interest in this particular title, but also high levels of confidence in the safety of the cinema experience, particularly amongst those audience segments – teens and young families – which in many ways led the return to the big screen and so have seen for themselves the efforts that all cinemas have made to ensure that the experience is an enjoyable and reassuring one.
“Our most recent independent industry survey for example showed that an exceptional 98% of returning cinema-goers rated their experience as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.”
Clapp added that cinemas would “remain mindful” of concerns about the new variant and implement any additional measures deemed necessary by government, “for example the reintroduction last week of face coverings in cinemas in England”.
David Hancock, a media and entertainment analyst at Omdia, said the film was “keenly anticipated” and predicted that it would continue to “do good business”.
“The buzz seems to be mainly generated by the appearance of previous Spider-Man villains as well as a cinematic universe element in Doctor Strange appearing,” he said. “Bond kickstarted cinema back in October and Spider-Man is benefiting from that (the Bond titles got many older and more cautious people back in the cinema).”
No Time to Die is currently the third highest-grossing film in the world (after two domestic Chinese titles) with about $780m in box office takings – making it Hollywood’s biggest release since the pandemic.
Meanwhile Holland, who has been busy promoting the film, told the BBC on Tuesday that playing Spider-Man felt like “more than just having a job”.
“There are kids out there that look up to Spider-Man and they come home from school and the person they want to sit down with is Spider-Man, and I am that person right now,” the British actor said. “So I have a responsibility to be a role model and to give these kids some drive and something to look up to.”
The 25-year-old recently said he was considering quitting acting to return to his roots in dancing, having played Billy Elliot in the West End as a child.