But one film alone won’t be enough to revive the theatrical business. Plenty of high-profile titles have underperformed during this turbulent period of the pandemic.
The latest Spider-Man installment benefited from pent-up demand for an in-theater movie experience. Fans had circled last week’s premiere on their calendars in anticipation of its release, thanks in part to the film opening exclusively in theaters.
Conversely, certain movies have continued to struggle as home viewing became a habit. That has created a two-tiered system that produces only a select group of box office blockbusters.
A gap had already existed between “event” movies and those more likely to be watched at home. But that divide has grown into what looks like a chasm this year, as movies without “Spider-Man’s” strength have fallen by the wayside.
Theater chains argue that film’s strong showing supports their argument that exclusive theatrical windows remain vital to their success, even if the duration of those theater-only runs has shortened by half to 45 days during the pandemic.
Unicorn or start of a trend?
Whether “Spider-Man” represents a significant breakthrough or an anomaly should come into focus soon.
“We will find out if this is a unicorn when ‘The Batman’ opens,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s senior media analyst. “To me, that’s the next one.”
“Audiences are becoming much more selective in terms of what they’re going to seek out for the movie-theater experience,” Dergarabedian said.
Theaters hope fans who saw “Spider-Man: No Way Home” in theaters — and not incidentally, all the coming attractions attached to it — will return.
“Movie-going begets movie-going,” Dergarabedian said.