Into the Spider-Verse’ snares No. 1 at box office, but ‘Mortal Engines’ tanks

LOS ANGELES – The animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has swung to the top of the domestic box office in its first weekend in theaters, proving there’s widespread audience interest in big-screen animated versions of Marvel’s marquee superheroes.

The film led a host of newcomers that debuted to varying success on this pre-Christmas holiday weekend, including Clint Eastwood’s drug smuggling drama “The Mule” and the Peter Jackson-produced epic “Mortal Engines,” which bombed in North American theaters.

“Into the Spider-Verse” earned an estimated $35.4 million against a $90 million production budget, according to Sony Pictures on Sunday – a record for animated movies in December, although the hybrid “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movies were higher. The film features an innovative animation style (both CGI and hand-drawn) and focuses on the Miles Morales character as he learns to become the famed web-slinger. It’s another financial win for the studio’s expanded Spider-Man universe strategy, following “Venom” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

“Spider-Verse” has been very well-received among critics, and audiences in exit surveys gave it a rare A-plus on CinemaScore – a first for a Spider-Man film. It’s also been nominated for a Golden Globe award for best animated feature and picked up a few honors from critics’ groups as well, including the New York Film Critics Circle.

“We are playing to both families and fanboys. We’re an all-audience film,” says Adrian Smith, Sony’s president of domestic distribution.

The film also has an eight-day runway until the big Christmas releases start packing multiplexes.

“The Mule” made its debut in second place with an estimated $17.2 million, a solid start for an R-rated film that cost $50 million to produce. The film drew an audience that was mostly older (78 percent over 35) and male (54 percent).

It’s Eastwood’s first major role in a film since 2012, and the studio is optimistic about the film’s longevity.

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