'Spider-Man: No Way Home'.

Pandemic? What pandemic? If moviegoers were afraid of the Omicron variant or rising case numbers, you wouldn’t know it from the opening weekend result for Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Worldwide, at $US600.8 million, the Sony/Marvel film recorded the third biggest opening weekend of all time, behind only Avengers: Endgame ($US1.22 billion) and Avengers: Infinity War ($640.5 million). The latter two films films also opened in China, where this Peter Parker outing is yet to secure a release date.

In the US/Canada, the film grossed $260 million. Prior to, no other film since the pandemic began even opened above $US100 million.

Here in Australia, the final chapter in the Tom Holland-led trilogy similarly smashed pandemic-era records to open at a whopping $26.2 million from 1,121 screens, the highest opening weekend since Avengers: Endgame in April 2019.

The result is more than double the opening weekend of No Time To Die, whose debut a few weeks ago at $11.2 million was already a pandemic-era record. This is to the delight of exhibitors, who described Spidey’s weekend as “astonishing” and “jaw-dropping”. The film should easily outstrip Bond to be the no.1 film of the year.

Overall, Spider-Man: No Way Home captured 86 per cent market share, with Numero reporting that the top 20 titles made $30.3 million.

Directed by Jon Watts, the film sees the titular hero’s identity revealed, bringing his responsibilities into conflict with his normal life and putting those he cares about most at risk. A crossover film of epic proportions, Spider-Man asks Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to make his identity secret again, but this breaks open the multiverse.

For IMAX Melbourne, the film gave the rare achievement of a third weekend in a row at near 100 per cent capacity, something the cinema hasn’t seen since Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.

“Following on from the first two weeks with Dune, which is still selling out our theatre, Spider-Man has proved to be the ultimate ‘we’re back’ moment for exhibition and has well and truly proven the importance of the theatrical release – both in terms of revenue and consumer demand. Congrats to Sony and here’s to more of these moments in 2022,” general manager Richard Morrison tells IF.

Village Cinemas Geoff Chard tells IF the opening for the film was outstanding, exceeding even its loftiest estimates.

“It broke so many records (both pre- and post-COVID) there are too many to list. Just for a start we had our 3 busiest days since March 2020 over the weekend. It just goes to show that people are more than willing to return to the movies,” he says.

“Despite the looming threat of Omicron,  it doesn’t appear to be reducing the interest in movie-going. Case numbers are climbing, but given COVID is now a part of our lives it seems people are just getting on with it.”

Kieren Dell, whose Majestic Cinemas has sites in regional NSW and Queensland, found the film played well even in sites that aren’t typically “Marvel performers”.

“It dashes the opinion of the cinema doubters, from Wall Street right through – people will come out in droves when a must-see movie is on!” the CEO says.

However, while Spider-Man played well to a younger audience, Dell points out that older audiences aren’t coming back to the cinema with as much fervour. Indeed, no other title even broke the $1 million mark last weekend, amid a backdrop of rising case numbers throughout the country due to the Omicron variant.

“The older audience are still a concern, as they do not seem to be turning out in large enough numbers,” Dell says.

West Side Story previews were particularly disappointing and we need them to come after Christmas for that and House of Gucci – so the next few weeks will give us a better indication, I think, once Xmas is behind us.

“I expect Omicron and fear of COVID generally will take the edge off over the summer period, but we are still expecting great box office overall.”

A distant second to Spider-Man: No Way Home was Warner Bros. Dune, in its third weekend. The sci-fi epic, which also stars Zendaya, collected $909,783 – a fall of 67 per cent, advancing to $11.2 million overall.

Disney’s Encanto continues to hold into the school holidays, dropping only 27 per cent with a third outing result of $769,843, climbing to $4.3 million.

In fourth position was No Time To Die, with several exhibitors reporting the film is continuing to do solid business in its sixth frame. Bond advanced to $32.8 million for Universal after amassing $585,676.

Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage is starting to drop off, falling 69 per cent in its fourth weekend, with takings of $451,246 seeing the film cross the $14 million mark.

Bowing in sixth spot was Pushpa: The Rise, distributed by MKS Retail. The Indian Telugu-language actioner collected an impressive $326,467 from just 54 screens, an average of $6,046.

Animated film The Boss Baby: Family Business is another title which is holding well into school holidays, collecting $252,295 to move to $3.4 million.

Wes Anderson’s latest, The French Dispatch, fell 50 per cent from its opening with a result of $232,439. The star-studded Disney title has now crossed $1.1 million.

A Boy Called Christmas continues to get moviegoers into the holiday spirit, now on $1.3 million after four weekends, after amassing $118,541.

Rounding out the top 10 was another Christmas flick; specialty screenings of 2003’s Love Actually, which made $85,021 from 19 screens.

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