The COVID-19 pandemic eased its grip on theaters all over the world for much of the year, allowing box office returns to be much more generous than in 2020 -- though still light-years from the Avengers: Endgame heights of 2019.
However, with the Omicron variant in the air, literally, it appears Spider-Man may be the first superhero truly immune from COVID-19. Spider-Man: No Way Home's debut spun a staggering web at the box office, scoring the biggest opening weekend ever for Sony and earning an estimated 587.2 million dollars worldwide -- the third-biggest global opening of all time. An estimated $253 million of that global tally came from domestic ticket sales, making Spider-Man: No Way Home also the third-biggest domestic opening in history and the biggest-ever December debut. It was also the first pandemic-era film to bow with more than $100 million.
As of December 26, Spider-Man: No Way Home also topped the worldwide box office list, earning 1.05 billion dollars worldwide after a little more than a week in theaters, making it the biggest box office smash of the year and the first film to earn more than a billion dollars globally since 2019's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Elsewhere on the yearly chart, some other films that were theater-only releases in the U.S. performed better than expected, like Sony's Spider-verse adjacent Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Ryan Reynolds' pandemic-delayed Free Guy. The flicks earned the #3 and #9 slots on 2021's top ten highest-grossing films list domestically
Movies like Black Widow, Disney's Jungle Cruise and A Quiet Place Part II performed decently, but likely saw their movie ticket take trimmed by the films' being available simultaneously on streaming services. Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson sued Disney, claiming her movie's box office -- and her bottom line as a producer -- was affected by Disney+'s streaming strategy. The suit was eventually settled, apparently amicably, and ScarJo mentioned she'd stay in the Marvel Studios family by producing future content, even though her Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow perished in Avengers: Endgame. Disney is the parent company of Marvel and ABC News.
Overseas, some weaker domestic performers like the pandemic-delayed James Bond adventure No Time to Die performed well; foreign theater-goers were more comfortable getting back to the theaters throughout the summer and fall, prior to the emergence of Omicron. Daniel Craig's last outing as 007 made more than $612 million from overseas audiences. Likewise, Marvel Studios' Eternals added more than $236 million to its total take from overseas audiences; F9 made more than $553 million overseas; and Black Widow earned an additional $183 million from the foreign box office.
China, meanwhile, minted its own blockbuster with The Battle at Lake Changjin, a nationalistic war film about China's defeat of U.S. soldiers in a battle of the Korean War. The film earned more than $902 million on China and Asia, second only to Spider-Man: No Way Home for the year.
2021's top ten movies in the U.S. (as of 12/26/2021)
1. Spider-Man: No Way Home -- $467,331,855 U.S. gross earnings
2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings -- $224,543,292
3. Venom: Let There Be Carnage -- $212,527,511
4. Black Widow -- $183,651,655
5. F9: The Fast Saga -- $173,005,945
6. Eternals -- $164,508,664
7. No Time to Die -- $160,772,007
8. A Quiet Place Part II -- $160,072,261
9. Free Guy -- $121,626,598
10. Ghostbusters: Afterlife -- $120,460,060
2021's top ten movies internationally (as of 12/26/2021)
1. Spider-Man: No Way Home -- $587,100,000 overseas gross earnings
2. The Battle at Lake Changjin -- $902,196,534
3. Hi, Mom -- $822,009,764
4. No Time to Die -- $613,262,000
5. F9: The Fast Saga -- $553,223,556
6. Detective Chinatown 3 -- $686,257,563
7. Venom: Let There Be Carnage -- $288,500,000
8. Godzilla vs. Kong -- $367,300,000
9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings -- $207,686,762
10. Eternals -- $236,181,075
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