May 6, 2007 / 4:17 PM / 10 years ago

"Spider-Man 3" smashes box office records

<p>A man laughs after watching a "Spider-Man 3" promotional video in Hong Kong May 2, 2007. "Spider-Man 3" sold a record $373 million worth of tickets at the worldwide box office in its first six days of release, according to a preliminary estimate issued on Sunday by the film's distributor.Claro Cortes IV</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Spider-Man has lost none of his bite, setting box office records around the world in his third crimefighting salvo.

All told, "Spider-Man 3" has sold an estimated $375 million worth of tickets worldwide, since opening internationally on May 1, distributor Columbia Pictures said on Sunday.

That is the highest opening since "Stars Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" opened to $254 million in 2005, the Sony Corp.-owned studio said.

In North America, the film earned $148 million since launching on Friday, smashing the opening-weekend of $135.6 million set last July by Walt Disney Co.'s "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

The film also set a single-day record with Friday sales of $59.3 million, beating the $55.8 million record also held by the "Pirates" sequel.

The international portion -- $227 million from 107 markets -- beats the $155 million opening record set last year by Sony's Vatican thriller "The Da Vinci Code," the studio said.

"I don't think that my brain went to this place. It's pretty wonderful," said Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

WORLDWIDE EVENT

The studio said "Spider-Man 3" cost $258 million to produce, with sources estimating that prints and advertising adding about $125 million to the bill. The box office pot is split roughly between the studio and movie theater owners, according to a complex formula.

In a bid to create simultaneous worldwide buzz, Columbia started rolling out the film across Asia and Europe on Tuesday, and added markets as the week progressed. Britain and North America were among the last to get the movie.

Noting constant criticisms about Hollywood's ever-increasing budgets, Sony Pictures vice chairman Jeff Blake said the answer was to "find a way to raise the bar on box office (sales), and I think what we've done here on the worldwide opening -- getting figures that people have never seen before -- is the only way you can do it."

The film set opening-weekend records in more than two dozen countries, including Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, Italy, Mexico and Brazil, Columbia said.

Weekend sales in Japan -- where the film had its world premiere last month -- totaled $26.5 million, followed by Britain with $23 million and France with $22 million.

As with its predecessors, "Spider-Man 3" stars Tobey Maguire as both the titular crimefighter and as earnest newshound Peter Parker, and Kirsten Dunst as his disenchanted girlfriend, Mary Jane. Sam Raimi directs.

Spider-Man gets to explore his dark side, thanks to some extraterrestrial black goo that infects his personality, and to combat three villains, played by series veteran James Franco and newcomers Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace. His nerdy alter ego must also fight to keep Mary Jane.

The multi-strand plot frustrated some critics, but Pascal said it was key to keeping the franchise fresh.

"Spider-Man always appeals to boys, but I think this particular story also appealed to women and it appealed to families, in a way that the last one didn't," she said.

Columbia said exit polling in North America indicated that the audience was 54 percent male, while 63 percent of moviegoers were under 25 years old.

The first "Spider-Man," in 2002, started off with a then-record $114.8 million, and finished with $403.7 million. Two years later, "Spider-Man 2" totaled $373 million; it opened on a Wednesday, making weekend comparisons difficult. Pascal said she hoped to hit $400 million with the new film.

A script for "Spider-Man 4" is being written, but no talent deals have been signed. "We're making ... as many (films) as I can do," Pascal said.

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