‘No Way Home’: the return of theaters

Emma Tanner, News Editor

Warning: This article contains spoilers.

The third installment of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man franchise was released on December 7, 2021 to glowing reviews.

With a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and $1.536 billion earned in the box office, it has been a major hit for Marvel and Disney. No Way Home is the eighth-highest grossing film in box office history, right behind The Lion King (2019). Domestically, it is behind Avengers: Infinity War (2018) as the sixth-highest grossing film of all time. Compared to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which was also released solely in theaters, No Way Home was a massive success.

In the film, protagonist Peter Parker (Spider-Man) seeks out Dr. Stephen Strange’s help to conceal his true identity after being outed to the world in Far From Home. However, the spell goes awry and together, they discover the existence of the little known multiverse. The plot parallels that of Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse — an animated standalone that Sony and Columbia Pictures released in 2018 — centered around Miles Morales’ discovery of the “Spider Verse” when he becomes Spider-Man. In No Way Home, we don’t meet the other Spider-Men until much further into the film, as most of the runtime is used to show Peter ’s struggle with former Spider-Man villains. The surprise guest appearances of Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire, reprising their old roles, was a tight kept secret among both stars and fans.

Until Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, the hero wasn’t a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His introduction at the beginning of Phase Three heralded a new age of superheroes (with Black Panther and Captain Marvel’s introductions following) increasing diversity. With the showing of Garfield and Maguire’s Spider-Men, it leaves fans wondering what else Marvel has in store. The company already plans to employ the multiverse in future projects like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The multiverse has been shown in Phase 4 series like Loki and WandaVision. Clearly it will prove to be a key plot device in the new phase of Marvel films and series. Spider-Man’s dealings seem to just be the surface of what is possible.

The utilization of Disney+ is also prevalent in Phase 4. All of the series released for the new phase have been exclusively on the streaming site. The company has also given subscribers access to movies during their theatrical release, usually for an extra fee (like Black Widow). However, No Way Home does not plan to be on the streaming platform late February — two months after its theatrical release. Perhaps it is to add to the air of mystery around the film. Since its fledgling days, it has been a secret who exactly would appear. The biggest speculation was the appearance of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Cast and crew alike were to keep the secret and only recently were the two allowed to be publicly credited for their work on the film. Those who have yet to see the film may still be unaware however, due to Disney’s choice to leave it off of streaming sites for another month.

Disney is no stranger to stream releases. At the beginning of the pandemic, the company released plenty of films on the streaming service to avoid the spread of COVID. For No Way Home, fans have poured into movie theaters as if it were pre-COVID. In comparison to Disney+ exclusives like Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon, it has performed astonishingly well. Both movies had Disney+ releases alongside their theatrical release while No Way Home still remains solely in theaters. That hasn’t seemed to deter anyone from seeing the movie, though, its box office numbers prove it. Perhaps No Way Home has shown that, contrary to popular opinion, theaters aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

Amidst COVID-19, movie theaters have taken a heavy hit. Filmmakers have turned to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ to release their works. The movie theater industry has lost roughly a hundred million dollars since the start of the pandemic. People even think of it as a dying industry, with some theaters closing down after the mandated lockdowns of 2020. Along with rising ticket and concession prices, most people haven’t considered reentering a movie theater when the streaming possibilities are now endless. However, Spider-Man: No Way Home has been a new beacon of hope to the industry. The film’s release weekend had the second-largest domestic opening of all time and has been record-breaking all around. A film so well-received during a heightened time of COVID shines a light on how things are slowly returning to normal for both the movie theater industry and society as a whole.