Spider-Man: Homecoming" Tops Box Office

By Ben Fritz Features Dow Jones Newswires

The superhero who kicked off Hollywood's modern comic book craze has swung back into the top tier.

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"Spider-Man: Homecoming" opened to a strong $117 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to studio estimates -- the best opening for a film featuring the web-slinging teenager in a decade.

Overseas, it took in $140 million from 56 markets, more than any prior "Spider-Man" film in the same set of countries. It performed particularly well in South Korea, Mexico and the United Kingdom. "Homecoming" has yet to open in France, Germany or Japan and to be approved for release in China, which typically imposes a "blackout" on Hollywood imports for several weeks during the summer in order to promote local films.

The reboot earned overwhelmingly positive reviews and an average grade of A from opening night audiences, according to market research film CinemaScore, indicating it should have a robust run in theaters over the coming weeks.

Its success will benefit two Hollywood competitors, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Walt Disney Co.'s Marvel Studios, that joined together to make "Homecoming" in an unusual partnership.

Sony Pictures financed the $175 million movie and will keep all of the profits it generates. That is a big deal for Sony, which has been in a grueling box office slump for several years.

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A significant element in the downturn of its motion picture business this decade was 2012's "The Amazing Spider-Man" and 2014's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," which disappointed fans and underperformed at the box office.

"This is a triumphant return" and "really gratifying," said Sony's president of marketing and distribution Josh Greenstein.

2002's "Spider-Man" was one of Sony's most successful movies ever and inspired dozens of superhero movies from competitors seeking similar success. That original run of films reached its apex with 2007's "Spider-Man 3," which opened to $151 million domestically and grossed $891 million worldwide.

To try to restore the character to his former glory, Sony joined with Marvel, which is behind many of the most successful superhero movies in recent years including "Avengers," "Captain America: Civil War" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."

Marvel produced the movie for Sony and integrated Spider-Man with its superhero universe. The new version of the character, played by British actor Tom Holland, first appeared in last year's blockbuster "Civil War." "Homecoming" featured Robert Downey Jr.'s "Iron Man" as a supporting character.

Marvel provided its producing services for free, save for a small compensation if the film grosses more than $750 million globally, as looks likely. But Disney could still benefit greatly from "Homecoming's" success as it owns all merchandise rights to Spider-Man. More successful movies typically spur more toy sales.

To sell "Homecoming" to audiences, Sony's advertisements emphasized the new Spider-Man's youth and playful attitude, in comparison to the more serious tone of the "Amazing Spider-Man" films, as well as his partnership with Iron Man.

Spider-Man will next appear in a pair of "Avengers" sequels from Marvel and the two studios are working on a follow-up to "Homecoming" scheduled for 2019.

July has brought good news to Sony. It successfully opened one of summer's few mid-budget dramas, "Baby Driver," last week. This weekend the Edgar Wright-directed movie's box office sales dropped a modest 38% to $12.75 million, bringing its total domestic gross to a healthy $56.9 million.

Write to Ben Fritz at ben.fritz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 09, 2017 13:47 ET (17:47 GMT)