‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ swings to sky-high $120.5-million opening

A cartoon Spider-Man strikes a pose in the air above the New York City skyline.
Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”
(Sony Pictures Animation)

Look out, here comes “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

The highly anticipated sequel to Sony‘s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” swung to the top of the domestic box office this weekend, launching to a massive $120.5 million, according to estimates from the studio and measurement firm Comscore.

The animated comic-book adaptation far exceeded early box office projections in the $80 million range. The superhero movie’s sleeper-hit of a predecessor debuted at $35.4 million in 2018.

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Internationally, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” opened to $88.1 million for a global cumulative of $208.6 million — a record-high number for Sony Animation.

“First of all, you never want to underestimate Spider-Man,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

“And you never want to underestimate the power of a PG-rated animated film to draw a huge audience. ... This combines two genres: animation and superhero. And that’s pretty irresistible. And the PG rating gives it the ability to draw in an even younger crowd to the Spider-Man universe.”

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“Across the Spider-Verse” notched the second-biggest domestic opening of 2023 behind Universal Pictures’ “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” — which launched at $146.4 million in April and has since amassed $566.3 million in the United States and Canada alone.

Dergarabedian believes the combined box-office success of “Spider-Verse,” “Super Mario Bros.” and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” — which has raked in hundreds of millions for Universal since its December debut — proves that the animated family film is a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we’re looking at a renaissance period for PG-rated animated films — a genre and rating that perhaps has been marginalized ... or underestimated in the past,” Dergarabedian said.

“With the pandemic, I think a lot of people thought, ‘Well, families aren’t going to go to the unsafe environment of a movie theater.’ ... But certainly they are back.”


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In addition to animated PG fare being sidelined historically, Dergarabedian added that perceived superhero-movie fatigue might have also contributed to analysts’ low (in hindsight) expectations for “Across the Spider-Verse.” Underwhelming box-office performances (Warner Bros.’ “Shazam! Fury of the Gods”) and bad reviews (“Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” Disney’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” Warner Bros.’ “Black Adam”) for recent superhero titles could suggest that audiences and critics are growing tired of the genre.

“But I actually don’t think that’s true,” Dergarabedian said.

“I don’t think audiences are fatigued by a genre. I think audiences just don’t necessarily respond if the movie doesn’t deliver. ... This movie — on all accounts from everything I’ve read and heard — really delivers. And the first film, ‘Into the Spider-Verse,’ ... a terrific movie, well-reviewed ... set up this movie.”

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Dergarabedian also noted that a leap this dramatic in opening-weekend ticket sales from an original movie to a sequel is “somewhat rare.”

“Usually with sequels, it’s the law of diminishing returns, not the law of increasing returns,” he said.

“But that building of momentum ... sustaining that interest in the Spider-Man character ... puts the Spider-Man brand in the pantheon of must-see superhero characters.”

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Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” reunites Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) for another epic journey through the multiverse. Supporting cast members include Issa Rae, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Vélez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya and Oscar Isaac.

The follow-up to “Into the Spider-Verse” — which dazzled critics and won the Academy Award for animated feature in 2019 — appears to have done it again, scoring a fantastic 95% fresh rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. The blockbuster has yet to receive a grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

“‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ ... contains every element of what made the first one so compelling,” writes film critic Katie Walsh for the Tribune News Service.

“A breathlessly beautiful achievement not just in animation but also comic book movie storytelling, ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ is willing to shred the lore from top to bottom and weave it back together again in new, surprising and wildly entertaining ways. It’s simply spectacular.”

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Rounding out the top three at the domestic box office this weekend were Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” which added $40.6 million in its sophomore outing for a North American total of $186.2 million; and 20th Century Studios’ “The Boogeyman,” which bowed at $12.3 million — just short of its projected $15-million debut.

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“But the resulting expansion falls prey to that iffiest of modern-day horror movie conventions: an ‘opening up’ narrative that too often feels like a shutting down of what’s truly scary.”

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