LOS ANGELES, Jan 10 — Jessica Chastain, Penelope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o and the cast of Universal’s globe-trotting espionage thriller The 355 were no match for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which dominated at the box office in its fourth weekend.

The latest Spidey adventure, starring Tom Holland as the title web-slinger, collected a leading US$33 million (RM138.8 million) from 4,108 theatres between Friday and Sunday, boosting its domestic tally to US$668 million. After this weekend’s haul, Spider-Man: No Way Home stands as the sixth-highest grossing movie in history at the domestic box office, surpassing Titanic (US$659 million) and Jurassic World (US$652 million). At this rate, it’ll soon take the No. 5 spot, which currently belongs to Avengers: Infinity War (US$678 million).

It’s no small feat that Spider-Man: No Way Home generated US$30 million in a single weekend this far into its theatrical run. In pandemic times, most movies would be lucky to sell that many tickets in their opening weekend, much less after playing in theatres for nearly a month — all while a highly contagious Covid-19 variant continues to rapidly spread. But, as this weekend illustrates, audiences aren’t willing to leave the house and visit their local multiplex for just any movie.

Universal’s star-studded action spy film The 355 had to learn that the hard way. The film managed to fall short of already low expectations, generating a dismal US$4.8 million from 3,145 North American venues over the weekend. The bad news? It’s unlikely to rebound in its theatrical run since The 355 has garnered mostly negative reviews (it holds a bleak 27 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes). The good news? The film, which cost US$40 million to produce, will likely move to digital rental platforms in 17 days, and it will play on the streaming service Peacock in 45 days, which could attempt to mitigate theatrical losses.

Directed by Simon Kinberg and co-starring Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing, The 355 follows international spies who form an unlikely team in order to put an end to potentially world-ending events. In Variety’s review, chief film critic Owen Gleiberman called it “generic, over-the-top, and 20 minutes too long, kind of like a Netflix movie.” Moviegoers were kinder, awarding the film a “B+” CinemaScore.

The 355 landed in third place on domestic box office charts, ranking behind Sing 2, which opened in theatres around Christmas. The animated musical comedy, also from Universal Pictures, added US$11.9 million from 3,713 cinemas over the weekend, pushing its North American total to US$100 million. It’s the first animated film to cross the US$100 million mark since Disney’s Frozen II in 2019.

That’s a notable achievement at a time when parents haven’t been taking their young kids to the movies, though box office analysts remain concerned about the sluggish return of family audiences. In 2019, animated films generated more money than any other genre, thanks to family friendly hits like The Lion King (US$543 million), Toy Story 4 (US$434 million), Frozen II (US$430 million), and Aladdin (US$335 million). There hasn’t been a single pandemic-era film geared toward kids that has been able to come close to reaching similar heights. So it has been worrying to film operators that Disney has already nixed plans to release Pixar’s Turning Red in theatres. Instead, it will debut on Disney Plus in March.

“The industry needs the family audience back in force for a sustained recovery,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.

In fourth place, Disney and 20th Century’s The King’s Man brought in US$3.3 million from 3,040 venues. So far, the prequel in The Kingsman action franchise has made US$25 million at the domestic box office and US$49 million internationally. — Variety.com via Reuters