'Spider-Man 3' Shatters Box-Office Records With $151.1 Million Opening

The whopping $258 million it cost to make "Spider-Man 3" looks like a sound investment after the film shattered box-office records with $151.1 million domestically and $382 million worldwide in just days.

Final numbers Monday came in even higher than distributor Sony Pictures' figures on Sunday, when the studio estimated that "Spider-Man 3" took in $148 million domestically for the weekend and had pulled in $375 million worldwide since it began debuting overseas last Tuesday.

The third film about the Marvel Comics superhero soared past the previous record holder, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," which debuted with $135.6 million domestically last July.

"Spider-Man 3" also easily surpassed the $114.8 million opening weekend of "Spider-Man" in 2002, which had held the record until "Dead Man's Chest" sailed in.

Soaring budget costs are the norm for a movie business that relies more and more on action-packed spectacles. Such franchise films have a ready-made audience that Hollywood can count on to turn up in huge numbers, diminishing the risks of their enormous budgets.

"The movies cost what they need to cost in order to tell the story that we set out to tell," said Amy Pascal, Sony co-chairman. "There were a lot of big effects in this movie that required a kind of scale."

The film set a new single-day record of $59.8 million domestically in its Friday debut, topping the $55.8 million opening day of "Dead Man's Chest." "Spider-Man 3" also had the biggest day ever worldwide with $117.6 million Saturday.

Domestically, "Spider-Man 3" drew more people over opening weekend -- 22.5 million -- than any film ever has, according to an average ticket price of $6.70 estimated by box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

By comparison, 20.7 million people saw "Dead Man's Chest" over opening weekend based on last year's average ticket price of $6.55. The 2002 average ticket price of $5.80 translates to 19.8 million people catching "Spider-Man" in its first weekend.

Sony would not disclose how much was spent to promote the film, but the studio's marketing mill was relentless, blanketing theaters, television and the Internet with trailers, teasers and other ads for "Spider-Man 3."

The studio played up Spider-Man's struggle with a new enemy -- himself. Fans were intrigued by posters showing a black mirror image of Spidey's red-and-black outfit for the film, in which he is tempted to use his powers for evil after an alien entity infects his suit.

While it has become common for Hollywood franchise flicks to open overseas a day or two ahead of their U.S. debuts, Sony pushed the release up a day or two earlier in some foreign countries.

American audiences already eager to see "Spider-Man 3" were further stoked by the last-minute blast of publicity as the film opened Tuesday to record box-office numbers in France, Italy, South Korea and other countries.

Though Sony plans to make more "Spider-Man" movies, stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst spoke of the third installment as a conclusion of sorts, the end of a trilogy that wraps up the story arc developed in the first two films.

There also was speculation that director Sam Raimi, who made all three "Spider-Man" films, would move on to something else, and that Maguire and Dunst might not want to return for more movies without him.

"A lot of audiences felt this could be the end of an era, the last of the original cast, so the urgency of having to see it was just amped up," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. "There's also the fact that people liked the first two movies. Those weren't throwaway films, so people knew they were going to get something heavier, something more substantial than the typical sequel."

As the "Star Wars" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogies proved, fans love a big finish. So even if this was not the end for "Spider-Man," Maguire and Dunst's trilogy talk and the uncertainty over whether the filmmaking team would be back brought an air of finality to part three.

"I'd love to have the whole gang back," Pascal said. "We've been a family making these last three movies together, but we will be making more `Spider-Mans."'