Sequels: That’s why


Everyone carps about sequelitis and the death of originality in movies, but you know what? Originality isn't in the studio business model, and it never has been. This morning all the suits in Hollywood are grinning fatcat grins because the model has been once more proven sound.

"Spider-Man 3" cost $260 million or so to make, is getting mixed reviews from critics and even a lot of moviegoers, and so what? The movie arguably recouped its cost in a single weekend: $148 million in U.S. box office plus an additional $227 in foreign ticket sales equals a total of $375 million. Using "Coming to America" accounting methods, this puppy might just break even.

That's a record for weekend box office, eclipsing last year's $136 million for "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (and doubtless to be eclipsed next summer when "Indiana Jones IV: The Search for a Title" opens on May 22, 2008). Friday's take -- $59.3 million -- broke the one-day record. "Spider-Man 3" also opened on the greatest ever number of screens (over 10,000) in the most theaters (4,252), proof that Sony was aiming for the record books. (By opening the film last Tuesday in 107 other countries, by contrast, the studio was just hoping to make as big a pre-piracy profit as possible.)

It also meant that if you wanted to see a movie this weekend, "Spider-Man 3" was almost all that was playing. The next film down the chart, at #2, was old standby "Disturbia" with $5.7 million. The weekend's only other new studio release -- all others having had the good sense to get the hell out of Dodge -- was Curtis Hanson's gambling drama "Lucky You," which was a bug on the windshield of the Spidey 18-wheeler. Seriously: "Spider-Man 3" made an average $35,000 at each of those 4,252 theaters. "Lucky You," at 2,525 theaters, could barely scrape together $1,000 bucks per house.

There was action down in art-house land, though, where the late Adrienne Shelly's "Waitress" debuted at four theaters and averaged $23,000 at each. Boston will get this lovely little comedy on Friday, and it's worth the wait.

Here are the Box Office Mojo numbers. Leonard Klady's on vacation, but here's the Movie City News chart.

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