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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Spider-Man hits US cinemas
Spider-Man at the New York Stock Exchange
Money-Man: The superhero at the New York Stock Exchange
Newly-released movie Spider-Man is expected to tear apart its competition on its first weekend in cinemas in the US and Canada.

The film, which stars Tobey Maguire as the comic-book hero, has opened at 3,615 cinemas across North America.

It is heavily tipped to break the $68.1m (£46.3m) taken by The Mummy Returns on its debut weekend last year, according to trade journal Variety.

Tobey Maguire
Tobey Maguire plays mild-mannered Peter Parker
It could even come close to the all-time record, the $90.3m (£61.5m) set by Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, also in 2001.

But Sony executives are being cautious about the film's chances of success.

"Nobody ever wants to make any predictions in this business that turn success into failure, so I won't even try," Sony's marketing and distribution president Jeff Blake told Variety.

"We're certainly aware of the fact The Mummy Returns threw off one of the biggest openings ever on the same date last year, and we'd like to be in that ballpark or better."

Genetically-modified

Maguire stars as Peter Parker, who is transformed into the web-weaving superhero after being bitten by a genetically-modified spider.

Kirsten Dunst plays his love interest Mary Jane Watson while his arch-enemy, the Green Goblin, is played by Willem Dafoe.

The film came close to never being made because of a legal battle between rival studios and Marvel Comics.

Kirsten Dunst with creator Stan Lee
Star and creator: Kirsten Dunst and Stan Lee
Smaller studios had been keen on making a Spider-Man movie, but eventually a legal settlement was agreed which gave Marvel and Sony Entertainment joint rights for making the movie.

The comic-book character first appeared in 1962, and creator Stan Lee is still working at the age of 79, as chairman emeritus of Marvel Comics.

He also took an executive producer's role on the film.

Asked about whether he would retire, he replied: "When you retire, what do you do? You say I can do all the things I've wanted to do.

"Well, I'm already doing the things I always wanted to do. Why would I stop?"

Spider-Man is released in the UK on 14 June.

See also:

30 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Bringing Spider-Man to life
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