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HomeIndustry SectorFilmOver the Weekend 12/20/21: Spider-Man Blows Up Box Office, COVID Curtails SNL,...

Over the Weekend 12/20/21: Spider-Man Blows Up Box Office, COVID Curtails SNL, and More News


Welcome back from what turned out to be a crazy weekend in many ways, although we’re just five days away from Christmas, so anyone in the industry still working today probably won’t be doing so for very long.

There was some great news from the weekend about the future of theatrical moviegoing, but maybe not so much for an ongoing pandemic that is heading quickly into its third or fourth wave (depending on your location and how you’re counting those waves).

Tom Holland in Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony Pictures)

We’ll start with the amazing news from the domestic box office where Sony Pictures released its anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home, produced in conjunction with Marvel Studios. Many went into the weekend thinking it was going to be a very big release, the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID be damned, and they were right.

Spider-Man: No Way Home, starring Tom HollandZendayaJacob BatalonBenedict Cumberbatch (reprising his role as Doctor Strange), Marisa TomeiJon Favreau, and a slew of villains from previous installments of the franchise, opened for Thursday previews, which grossed an astounding $50 million. That was not only more than any other movie had made in Thursday night previews this year, but also the most made in Thursday previews for a movie in 2020, making it the largest Thursday preview gross for a movie since 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. Similarly, after being released officially into 4,336 theaters on Friday, the superhero movie ended up grossing $121.8 million on its first day (with that previous $50 million rolled in), which was the second-biggest opening day ever after 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. In a single day, No Way Home made more than the entire domestic gross of all but eight movies released in 2021.

As of Sunday, Spider-Man: No Way Home had grossed an estimated $253 million in its first three days, but when actuals came in on Monday morning, it actually had grossed $260 million in its opening weekend. That makes it the second-biggest domestic movie opening of ALL TIME behind Marvel’s Endgame, which had a jaw-dropping $357.1 million opening. It also surpassed the opening weekend of Endgame‘s precursor, Avengers: Infinity War, which opened with $257.7 million. No Way Home also knocked the record-setting Star Wars: The Force Awakens out of the top 3 all-time openings, although that franchise reboot still holds the record for all-time domestic gross with $936.7 million.

Overseas, No Way Home was no slouch, grossing $340.8 million internationally in 60 markets, not only surpassing every other Hollywood movie this year, but also the previous two Tom Holland Spider-Man movies.  That weekend opening did better than F9 by 210% and Venom: Let There Be Carnage by 183%, though they may have opened in fewer markets. More importantly, No Way Home is now the third-biggest global opener of all time, because, between North America and those overseas markets, it has grossed $600.8 million in roughly five days. It’s a great way to end the year for Sony Pictures, who has not fared well during the pandemic until releasing Venom and then Ghostbusters: Afterlife in October and November.

Disney‘s animated Encanto was the only other movie in theaters that wasn’t obliterated by the advent of Spider-Man‘s release, dropping just 35% to remain in second place with $6.5 million, having grossed $81.5 million in its first month in theaters.

Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story didn’t fare as well, getting stomped on by the new Marvel release and dropping 68% down to third place with just $3.4 million and less than $18 million in the first ten days. Disney has already announced that the Spielberg musical will be put on its streamer, Disney+, by the end of January ’22, in accordance with the studio’s 45-day theatrical agreement it made with theater chains. To some, this might be seen as a bane for its Oscar chances, but in fact, it might make it immediately more accessible for Oscar voters as they’re filling out their nomination ballot. Win-win.

Sony’s other release, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, was in fourth place just behind Spielberg’s film with $3.4 million, and yet its $117 million domestic gross doesn’t look so impressive next to No Way Home‘s opening day.

The only other new wide release, Guillermo del Toro‘s Nightmare Alley, was released more moderately by Searchlight Studios into 2,145 theaters, but it just stumbled out of the gate with pretty much everyone choosing to see Spider-Man. Del Toro’s latest, which sports an astounding ensemble cast that includes Bradley CooperCate BlanchettRooney MaraWillem DafoeRichard JenkinsDavid Strathairn, and Ron Perlman opened with less than $3 million to take fifth place.

The Indian film Pushpa: The Rise – Part 1 snuck into the Top 10, released by Hamsini Entertainment into 400 theaters, where it grossed $1.3 million, enough for a seventh-place showing.

Saturday Night Live
(L-R) Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Tom Hanks on Saturday Night Live (NBC)

The other big news from the weekend was the effects that Omicron variant continued to have as it spread rampantly through New York City. As mentioned on Friday, a number of Broadway shows were rescheduled or cancelled due to positive COVID tests, and it was inevitable for it to eventually hit televised entertainment. Sure enough, NBC‘s Saturday Night Live, which made history by being some of the first entertainment in New York to return with a live studio audience in Oct. 2020, had a number of positive COVID tests that knocked out part of the crew working on setting up the show for Saturday night’s live airing. It was decided to do the show audience-free, and the performance by musical guest Charlie XCX was cancelled by late afternoon on Saturday. On top of that, a number of the regular cast reportedly opted out of performing on the show out of caution and concern.

What ended up happening was that five-time host Paul Rudd mostly did the show with a skeleton cast, but one that included actor Tom Hanks and the unstoppable Kenan Thompson, the cast’s longest-running member, as well as former castmate and frequent host Tina Fey, plus there were appearances by Steve Martin and Martin Short. Presumably, Hanks, Martin and Short were already scheduled to be there to commemorate and induct Rudd into SNL‘s “Five Timer’s Club.” Hanks ended up watching the entire show from the audience, after an opening in which he stated, “Thank you, surviving crew members. Tonight everyone at Saturday Night Live planned to do our big Christmas show and induct a new member into our five-timer club, but Covid came early this year, so in the interest of safety we do not have an audience and we sent home our cast and most of our crew but I came here from California and if you think I was going to fly 3,000 miles and not be on TV, you’ve got another thing coming.” Michael Che still did his Weekend Update segment, sitting on an empty main stage joined by Fey, who returned to do that popular section of the show for the first time in many years. You can see how that went below:

The Christmas episode was the last episode for 2021, and there’s been no word when the series will return after its holiday break, but both New York City and Los Angeles reported a record number of new COVID cases on Friday, and the spread of the coronavirus is running rampant with the Omicron variant being far more transmissible, even if it’s not nearly as severe or debilitating for those who have been vaccinated and received their booster vaccines. We’ll have to wait and see how things play out, because hearing that movie theaters were busier than any time previously in the pandemic just as the virus is spreading once again is a little worrying.

Drive My Car
Drive My Car (Janus Films)

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association  (LAFCA) voted on its annual awards over the weekend, and in a surprising turn, it also picked Ryusuke Hamaguchi‘s Drive My Car as its Best Picture with Jane Campion‘s The Power of the Dog as its runner-up. Campion for Best Director with Hamaguchi as the runner-up. Drive My Car also won for Best Screenplay with Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Licorice Pizza (which many thought was the favorite) taking second. The group’s acting picks were fairly eclectic as usual with Simon Rex being honored as Best Actor for Red Rocket  — Power of the Dog’s Benedict Cumberbatch came in second place. Penélope Cruz received the group’s Best Actress for her latest collaboration with Pedro AlmodovarParallel Mothers, while Renate Reinsve from the Norwegian film, The Worst Person in the World, was their runner-up. Vincent Lindon from Titane, and Ariana Debose from West Side Story received their supporting awards. Cinematographer Ari Wegner has won yet another critical prize for her work on Power of the Dog, which puts her in a strong running to be the first female DP to win the Oscar in that category. Steve Saklad received the group’s award for Production Design for Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar, a VOD comedy release, over Nightmare Alley‘s Tamara Deverell. (We did mention that LAFCA tends to be quite unconventional, didn’t we?) Joshua L. Pearson won the group’s Editing prize for his work on Questlove‘s doc, Summer of Soulwhich also received the group’s award for Best Doc.

Going back to the group’s love for Drive My Car, it’s not often that LAFCA and the New York Film Critics Circle pick the same film as Best Picture. It happened a few years ago with Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma, and also in 2014 with Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood, but the two coastal groups agreeing is less common than you would think.

Malik S
Malik S (center right) on The Neighborhood with Cedric the Entertainer (left) (CBS)

In the world of television development, Deadline reports that CBS is developing a new multi-camera family comedy called The Monroes & Tony, from the team of The Neighborhood: actor, writer and producer Malik S; star and exec. producer Cedric the Entertainer; and production companies Kapital Entertainment and TrillTV.  Written by Malik, The Monroes & Tony “revolves around an ambitious but everyday guy who creates a blended family between his 9-year-old stepson, new wife, and her superstar ex-husband who, despite his fame and wealth, misses the connection of family.” Malik is EPing with Kaplan through his Kapital Entertainment, Wendy Trilling and her TrillTV, Cedric and Eric Rhone for Bird and a Bear Entertainment, and Peter Principato and Kevin Parker for Artists First. It hasn’t been reported whether Malik S. might act on the new show as well.

There were a couple of cancellation announcements made over the weekend, including Netflix cancelling Julie and the Phantoms after a single season, and the same with Bill Lawrence‘s multi-camera Head of the Class reboot at HBO Max, which the streamer won’t be moving forward with after its first season, which debuted on Nov. 4.

If you’re a subscriber to YouTube TV, you may have noticed when a number of Disney-owned networks like ESPNABC, and FX going dark on the streaming service earlier in the week, but YouTube reached a new carriage deal with Disney to avoid that happening again with Disney stating, “We are pleased to announce that after a brief disruption, we have reached a new distribution agreement with Google’s YouTube TV for continued carriage of our portfolio of networks. We appreciate Google’s collaboration to reach fair terms that are consistent with the market, and we’re thrilled that our robust lineup of live sports and news plus kids, family and general entertainment programming is in the process of being restored to YouTube TV subscribers across the country.”

We were graced with a few new trailers this morning, presumably a few that will be in front of various movies over the coming holidays. First up, we have Robert Eggers‘ latest, The Northman, a Viking action epic from the filmmaker behind The Witch and The Lighthouse, which stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem DafoeFocus Features will release the movie on April 22, 2022.

Next up, we have the first trailer for the Amazon Prime Video rom-com, I Want You Back, starring Charlie DayJenny Slate, and Scott Eastwood, which will hit the streamer worldwide on Feb. 11, 2022, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

That’s it for today. Unsure whether there will be a “Hump Day News Update” this week, but there should still be plenty of other great features and columns here on Below the Line right up until Christmas Eve on Friday.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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