LOS ANGELES - Hordes of moviegoers were bitten by the "Spider-Man" bug this weekend, as the superhero flick flew to the top of the box office.
The 3-D reboot starring Andrew Garfield as the web-slinger debuted Tuesday and grossed a healthy $140 million during its first six days in theaters, according to an estimate from Sony Pictures. Overseas, where the film played in 74 foreign countries, the movie collected an additional $129.1 million, raising its international total to $201.6 million.
Audiences were less interested in the weekend's other new offerings. Oliver Stone's gritty crime drama "Savages" launched with a decent $16.2 million while "Katy Perry: Part of Me," an inexpensive 3-D concert documentary about the pop star, brought in a so-so $7.2 million over the weekend.
Last weekend's No. 1 film, Seth MacFarlane's R-rated "Ted," maintained a strong hold at the box office. The film starring a foul-mouthed talking teddy bear saw its ticket sales drop only 40 percent, to $32.6 million, during its second weekend in theaters. The movie has now sold $120.2 million worth of tickets domestically and is primed to become a major hit for distributor Universal Pictures.
As a result of the strong business at the multiplex, ticket sales were up roughly 29 percent this weekend compared to the same three-day period in 2011. So far, receipts are up about 8 percent over last year, while attendance has jumped 11 percent in 2012.
Sony decided to open "The Amazing Spider-Man" earlier in the week to take advantage of the Fourth of July holiday. There are few comparable openings to measure its performance against, but in 2007, the first "Transformers" also opened on the Tuesday before July 4. It went on to gross a slightly better $155.4 million by Sunday.
The new "Spider-Man" appealed to a wide range of moviegoers: Roughly half of the crowd was older than 25, and the film skewed only slightly more male, with 58 percent of the audience composed of men. However, the majority of ticket buyers weren't willing to shell out a few extra bucks to see the movie in 3-D: Roughly 44 percent of the film's receipts came from the more expensive format.
"I did think more people would see it in 3-D, because it's such an incredible visual treat," said Rory Bruer, Sony's president of distribution.
Those who saw the $230 million production this week gave it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. With solid word-of-mouth, the picture likely will be headed toward the same level of global ticket sales as its predecessors. "Spider-Man 3," the previous installment in the franchise, which did not have the benefit of 3-D or IMAX ticket surcharges, grossed $890.9 million worldwide in 2007.
The successful launch of the new Spidey flick is good news for Sony, which in 2010 decided to pull the plug on a planned fourth "Spider-Man" movie directed by Sam Raimi. The filmmaker was responsible for the franchise's first three entries, all of which starred Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. But Sony and Raimi parted ways and the studio decided to focus the new movie on how Peter Parker transformed from a high school student into a superhero. Many considered the creative decision a risky move, since that plot line is similar to 2002's original "Spider-Man."
So far, it appears the gamble has paid off, and Sony will move ahead with its plan to release a sequel in 2014.
"It's definitely going to stay on the calendar," acknowledged Bruer. "We always anticipated this movie would be a new set of stories told in a trilogy, and there's a definite story arc to be told; now that we've established the relaunch, we're well on our way."
Overseas this weekend, the new "Spider-Man" performed best in the United Kingdom, where it sold $18.1 million worth of tickets. The movie also had excellent debuts in Mexico and Indonesia, where its $4.5 million opening was the biggest of all time for the country. Like the other films in the "Spider-Man" franchise, the latest offering will likely gross the majority of its ticket sales overseas; about 62 percent of the receipts for "Spider-Man 3" came from international receipts.
"Savages," meanwhile, did not go over as well with audiences, who gave the film an average grade of C-plus. While the movie debuted with about $3 million more than pre-release audience surveys had indicated, the poor filmgoer response could spell bad news for the picture in coming weeks. The film, about two twentysomething marijuana sellers who get mixed up with a Mexican drug cartel, was financed by Universal and Relativity Media for about $45 million.
While the movie was marketed primarily to older males, it ended up attracting a 51 percent female audience, though 61 percent of the crowd was older than 30. The adult drama, which stars John Travolta, Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro, marks a return for filmmaker Stone to the violent movies from his past such as "Scarface" (which he wrote but did not direct) and "Natural Born Killers."
"Katy Perry: Part of Me" cost Paramount's micro-budget label Insurge only $12 million to produce, so the film's debut isn't considered a bust. However, the studio clearly was hoping the movie would replicate the success of last year's "Never Say Never," a similar concert film about teen star Justin Bieber. That movie, which cost $13 million to make, debuted with $29.5 million and ultimately grossed $98 million worldwide.
The Perry film no doubt will end up grossing far less than Bieber's movie did, though it's not certain why. The musician has a huge fan base with 22.5 million followers on Twitter; Bieber has 24.3 million.
"Justin Bieber has a very specific, rabid fan base, and I think there was something mysterious about him at the time, so it was easier to sell the concept that there were things in the movie you just didn't know about him," said Megan Colligan, Paramount's president of domestic distribution. "Katy Perry has a much bigger public persona and sometimes it takes a minute for moms to hear from other moms that the movie has a good message."
Not surprisingly, those who turned up to see Perry's movie seemed to be her die-hard "Katy cats": 81 percent of the crowd was female and 72 percent was younger than 25. That young female audience loved the well-reviewed movie, assigning it an average grade of A.
The film, which follows Perry on her recent California Dreams tour as her marriage to comedian Russell Brand falls apart, has grossed $10.3 million since its debut Thursday. The picture also opened this weekend in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom and collected $2.3 million in total in those countries.