Movie theaters are breaking records thanks to Spider-Man, even as omicron spreads

Spider-Man: No Way Home eclipsed previous box office records on its first night at some of the biggest theater chains in the nation. That’s big news for theaters whose continued existence seemed under threat at the start of the pandemic, and it suggests moviegoers’ interest hasn’t yet changed dramatically in response to the latest COVID variant.

AMC announced Friday that roughly 1.1 million moviegoers attended the opening night of Spider-Man: No Way Home, making it the highest-grossing opening night for a December title in AMC’s history. Cinemark called the film’s debut its “best opening night of all time.” And Regal said the film became its second-highest Thursday box office title in its history and shattered records for IMAX, 4DX, ScreenX, and RPX formats.

“The anticipation for Spider-Man: No Way Home has completely exceeded our expectations,” Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Regal parent Cineworld, said in a statement. “We are just as excited as our moviegoers to see our favorite webslinger back on the big screen at Regal and we would like to thank our friends at Sony for delivering another amazing tentpole.”

Justin McDaniel, Cinemark SVP of global content, said that the number of moviegoers who flocked to the premiere “underscores the irreplaceable value of the in-theatre experience, which we are thrilled to continue to offer in collaboration with our studio partners.”

While the film is expected to perform well heading into the weekend, it’s unclear what effect the omicron variant will have on Spider-Man’s performance going forward. Much is still unknown about the variant, such as whether omicron causes more severe illness or death than the original virus and the Delta variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, breakthrough cases in those who are vaccinated are expected to happen, the agency said, examples of which we’ve already seen reported.

Also unclear is how theaters plan to navigate the omicron variant’s spread. None of the major US distributors returned The Verge’s requests for comment on Thursday about moviegoer safety protocols and whether exhibition delays and closures could be imminent.

Given the unknowns, it’s a bit early for theaters to be taking another pandemic victory lap — shattered records or otherwise.

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