'Spider-Man 3' Web sales top predecessor

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Moviegoers are buying online tickets to "Spider-Man 3" at a faster clip than they did for its blockbuster predecessor almost two weeks before that film hit theaters, top online ticket sellers said Monday.

Movietickets.com reported that Spidey 3 tickets are selling at three times the rate of "Spider-Man 2" at the same time in the sales cycle and are "tracking to beat all expectations."

"Spider-Man 2" was the third-highest grossing film of 2004 and grossed about $784 million at the box office.

Fandango.com shows the new film is selling four times faster than did the previous movie in the franchise and accounted for 47% of all ticket sales early in the day Monday.

The new film, produced and distributed by Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures and Marvel Entertainment Inc., has sold out dozens of the thousand or so midnight showings scheduled for May 3, said Fandango spokesman Harry Medved.

"Spider-Man 3" debuts in theaters May 4 with the original cast of Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco reprising their roles. The movie had its world premiere in Tokyo last week and is currently on a world tour that culminates with the global debut in early May.

The film kicks off a potentially lucrative summer season for Hollywood studios and movie theaters, with the third installments of the "Shrek" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" series of movies also slated for May. The summer season often accounts for as much as 40% of annual ticket sales.

The first two "Spider-Man" movies together grossed roughly $1.6 billion at global box offices. The new film, which cost $250 million to $300 million according to news reports, could be director Sam Raimi's last about the web-crawling superhero -- a factor that may be driving early ticket sales, said Fandango columnist Richard Horgan.

"Raimi is a beloved director of this kind of material ... and people are really getting the sense that he is really going to top himself. He is going to go out with a bang," Horgan said.

Horgan cautioned that while online advance sales do not always track boxoffice sales, he said the film could be "an absolute monster."
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