This image released by Sony Pictures shows Tom Holland in Columbia Pictures'
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Tom Holland in Columbia Pictures' "Spider-Man: No Way Home." Image Credit: Sony Pictures via AP

Hollywood closed out 2021 with more fireworks at the box office for ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home,’ which topped all films for the third straight week and already charts among the highest grossing films ever. But even with all the bubbly popping for ‘No Way Home,’ the film industry heads into 2022 with plenty of reason for both optimism and concern after a year that saw overall ticket revenue double that of 2020, but still well off the pre-pandemic pace.

Movie theatres began the year mostly shuttered but ended it with a monster smash. Sony Pictures’ Marvel sequel ‘No Way Home’ grossed an estimated $52.7 million over the weekend to bring its three-week total to $609.9 million. That ranks 10th all-time in North America. Worldwide, it’s made $1.37 billion, a total that puts it above ‘Black Panther’ and makes it the 12th highest grossing film globally.

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Spider-Man from Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. Image Credit: AP

‘No Way Home,’ Tom Holland’s third standalone film as the webslinger, gave a huge lift to the box-office recovery that started in earnest last spring when US cinemas opened after a year of COVID-19 closures. Marvel films dominated the turbulent year, accounting for the top four movies of 2021: ‘No Way Home,’ ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,’ ‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ and ‘Black Widow.’

The North American box office in 2021 amounted to $4.5 billion, according to data firm ComScore. That’s about 60 per cent down from 2019 — back before the days of masked moviegoers, social distancing and virus variants like the currently surging omicron.

Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz in 'The Batman'
Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz in 'The Batman' Image Credit: DC Entertainment

Whether the movies will ever reach those pre-pandemic totals again is uncertain, given that exclusive theatrical windows have since shrunk, studios have experimented with hybrid releases and little besides superhero films are packing theatres. Partly due to COVID-19 disruptions, the 2022 release schedule is unusually packed with potential blockbusters, including ‘The Batman,’ ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,’ ‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ ‘Jurassic World: Dominion,’ ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ and ‘Avatar 2.’

Second place over the weekend went to Universal Picture’s animated sequel ‘Sing 2.’ It took in $19.6 million in its second weekend to bring its two-week total to $89.7 million. That’s a steady result given that family movies and films skewing toward older moviegoers have been the slowest to bounce back during the pandemic. ‘Sing 2’ added another $54.9 million internationally. It’s trajectory should make it the top animated release of the pandemic.

Sing 2
Sing 2 Image Credit: IMDB

But after ‘No Way Home’ and ‘Sing 2,’ there was little that appealed to moviegoers over the holiday weekend.

‘The King’s Man,’ the third installment in Matthew Vaughn’s ‘Kingsman’ series, out in UAE cinemas, grossed a modest $4.5 million in its second week after a lacklustre debut. But that was still good enough for third place. The Disney release, produced by 20th Century Studios, has made $47.8 million globally.

This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Ralph Fiennes in a scene from 'The King's Man.'
This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Ralph Fiennes in a scene from 'The King's Man.' Image Credit: 20th Century Studios via AP

Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ sold $2.1 million in tickets in its fourth weekend. While holding well (the film dropped 26 per cent from the week prior), the once-envisioned holiday upswing for the acclaimed musical hasn’t materialised. ‘West Side Story’ has grossed a disappointing $29.6 million domestically.

After flopping on its debut last week, Warner Bros.’ ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ dropped a steep 64 per cent in its second weekend with $3.8 million. The film is simultaneously streaming on HBO Max in the US, a 2021 practice that the studio has pledged to end in 2022. The long-in-coming ‘Matrix’ reboot, out in UAE cinemas, was even edged by the second week of the Kurt Warner NFL drama ‘American Underdog,’ which grossed $4.1 million for Lionsgate.

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This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in a scene from "The Matrix Resurrections." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP) Image Credit: AP

One of the only new releases of the week in the US was Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s ‘Memoria,’ with Tilda Swinton. Its distributor, Neon, has laid out a novel strategy for the art-house release, playing the film in only one theater at a time, with no plans for a future streaming or physical release. ‘Memoria’ started its quixotic, cross-country journey with $52,656 since opening December 16 at New York’s IFC Center.