The newest installation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hits theaters tomorrow, and people are buzzing. As one of the most anticipated Marvel releases in history, Spider-Man: No Way Home promises to be a delight for old and new Spidey fans alike as they combine elements from favorite Spider-Man movies through the past few decades. As opening weekend approaches, the media buzz about the anticipated box office returns for this movie has reached a heightened frenzy. 

Opening Weekend Could Be Huge

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The newest Spider-Man movie ostensibly stars Tom Holland and Zendaya – but the main cast is a whole lot bigger than that, which we’ll get to in a minute. With an Avengers-level all-star cast, it’s no wonder that this movie has a lot of people on the edge of their seats waiting to see it. Ticket sales have been open since early November, and people have snatched them up eagerly with pre-pandemic enthusiasm. 

The opening weekend for the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie is expected to be big, but exactly how big depends on who you ask. Sony has been conservative in the estimates for their newest upcoming hit, suggesting it should net around $130 million from Thursday previews to Friday, Saturday and Sunday showings. Variety suggests upward of $150 million. Other outlets are guessing around $175 million. Deadline appears to be a bunch of Spidey fans because they’re guessing $250 million or more. CELEB will take a completely random guess at $190M. We are also Spidey fans, but maybe a bit less optimistic than Deadline

Whatever prediction comes to pass, almost certainly sales will exceed $100 million which breaks the box office record for pandemic and post-pandemic releases. Ironically, the only movie that’s come close to touching that vaunted post-pandemic milestone is another Marvel movie: Venom: Let there Be Carnage. And – spoiler alert – there was a teaser at the end of that movie that gave a hint as to what Spider-Man: No Way Home audiences can expect. 

The movie cost around $200M to make and recouping that in the first weekend alone would be a great sign for the theater industry. After theaters were forced to shutter last year from the pandemic, there were questions as to whether the industry would ever recover. In-person theaters have been dying a slow death by a thousand cuts since the advent of Streaming Video on Demand (SVOD) services, and the pandemic seemed like the nail in the coffin. 

But if Spider-Man comes out slinging – sorry, swinging – it could be a sign that people are done staying home and they’re ready to get back to the theater, even if it means eschewing the convenience of SVOD. Variety writes, “‘To reach $100 million or more in a single weekend for the first time during the pandemic, which this movie is likely to far exceed, would be a big win for theater owners and mark another step in the long-term box office recovery process,’ says Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Box Office Pro.”

The History of the Spidey-Verse

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Before we talk about why this movie is such a big deal and why people are so excited to see it, we have to look back at how we got to Spider-Man: No Way Home. Fans of the MCU will probably already know this, but if you’re new to Spidey here’s a crash course to bring you up to speed.

In the 1990’s, comic books were still seen as children’s novelties. Adults who collected them were a little weird, and nobody really treated them as all-ages entertainment. Enter Spider-Man. In 2002, a highly-anticipated film hit the box office with a fresh-faced Tobey Maguire at its helm. Maguire’s Spider-Man took itself seriously – but not too seriously – and was a revolutionary attempt to bring comic book enjoyment to the mainstream. It worked, for the most part. Maguire’s Spider-Man grossed over $800 million in the box office, and that doesn’t happen for niche cult favorites. Maguire’s original villain was Green Goblin – played by Willem Dafoe – and he went on to battle the likes of Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus, Sandman played by Thomas Haden Church, and Goblin the redux played by James Franco. Spidey also had a run-in with Venom in a slightly campy emo-Spidey that had people itching for more of the alien symbiote, but they had a long wait ahead.

After the three-movie Maguire era, Andrew Garfield was cast as the new Spider-Man. People were initially hesitant because the approaches were completely different. Whereas Maguire was a serious but sometimes silly series, Garfield’s Spider-man often struck more somber tones. It was a grown-up (but high-school aged) Spidey for a jaded generation. Garfield was given two movies: The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014. While Garfield’s Spidey was a balm for those who felt like Maguire’s interpretation was too moody and angsty, for whatever reason he didn’t gain the same traction as his predecessor. 

In 2018, a popular animated Spidey movie titled Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was released, starring a character named Miles Morales. Morales isn’t always included when discussing the history of Spider-Man because the movie took the unusual route of an animated adventure, but he belongs in the list. Morales is the only Black Spidey to date. 

Then comes Tom Holland, who changed the game completely. Holland’s success as Spidey may be due to the fact that his character is intertwined with the massively popular Avengers characters, giving him an advantage over his two predecessors. When Holland has the opportunity to play on screen opposite from Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and other mega-stars of this era, it’s hard to imagine him not becoming a hot ticket item.

But even beyond that, Holland’s Spider-Man is endearing, witty, and charming. So far, Holland has played the web-slinger in six MCU movies, including tomorrow’s sure-to-be hit. It doesn’t hurt that his leading lady MJ is none other than Zendaya, a former Disney Channel star who’s created a successful career of her own as an adult. Their romance may have started on-screen, but it blossomed in real life too and they’re one of Hollywood’s favorite couples. 

It’s easy to see why Holland’s Spider-Man has the perfect recipe for success, from love off-screen and on-screen star castmates to an almost annoyingly lovable demeanor: Holland is the most popular Spider-Man, hands down. 

Why This Movie is Such a Big Deal

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But that alone doesn’t explain why the new movie has people chomping at the bit to sit in a theater despite the threat of the rising COVID-19 Omicron variant. After two years of caution, people aren’t going to take that leap without good reason. So what makes this movie so special? Aside from being the newest installation in an incredibly complex MCU story that may answer some questions – it’s full of stars. 

After the four original Avengers movies wrapped up with Avengers: Endgame, people assumed the superstar group had wrapped up. But Marvel said, “Not so fast.” Since the Avengers story came to an end in 2019, the MCU has been churning out more content, not less. Disney Plus has already released several exclusive MCU series, including Wandavision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye and Loki – and the movies aren’t slowing down either. Just this year, Black Widow, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Shang-Chi hit the box offices, and Doctor Strange 2 is expected early next year. As the story grows and becomes more complex and intriguing, people are eager to lap up the next installment. Disney has done an excellent job of keeping the hype and pace going. The Spider-Man series is a bit of a complication, since the rights to the character have been owned by Sony for a long time. But Disney and Sony have been able to work together to create a system where Holland’s Spidey still belongs to the MCU, but Sony still has a lot of creative control. It’s a weird romance, but it’s working.

The fact that Sony still owns the character has allowed for something extraordinary. The Avengers movies and shows are known for bringing in easter eggs – little nods to fans scattered throughout – and other Avengers stars to keep the stories intertwined, but Spider-Man: No Way Home throws out all subtly and approaches this collaboration with a sledgehammer. At the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Hardy’s Venom character was hiding out in a tropical getaway somewhere, sitting in a hotel room as he hides from his new life as San Francisco’s most wanted. Something happens – we aren’t quite clear on what that is yet, but it appears to be tied to Venom’s attempt to show Eddie Brock some of what he’s experienced through time and space – and Brock and Venom appear in the same hotel room, in another universe. On the tv is a familiar face – Spider-Man (Holland). Venom growls, “that guy…” 

It was just a hint of the collaboration to come, but a release of the cast and further trailers promised so much more. Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, will be in the new movie, along with Molina, Dafoe, and a number of other huge names from Spidey’s past. Other stars who we know will make appearances include Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Benedict Wong, Kirsten Dunst and many more. Maguire and Garfield are both listed for the cast, but it’s unclear how they’ll blend into the story. And Miles Morales may understandably not appear in No Way Home but we understand there will be a mention of the only Black Spider-Man, which can only mean one person. 

Some questions remain about who exactly will be showing up and how, but it’s clear that this movie plans to wrap all of the Spidey fans up in a blanket of love. Or maybe it’s a web of love. A very tangled web, at that. The MCU has flirted with the multi-verse in past films – hello, Ant-Man – but this could be the biggest one so far. 

What you have with No Way Home is a nod to every Spidey lover, Venom lover, and Doctor Strange lover – plus who knows what else. It’s an exciting installment in the series and promises to be epic, which explains why the predictions are so rosy. It’s sure to be an exciting weekend, and we’re ready for it.