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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 May 2007, 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK
Spider-Man hits to go 'on and on'
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Kirsten Dunst (left) and Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3
Kirsten Dunst (left) and Tobey Maguire star in Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man will return for at least three more movies, its studio has said after the super-hero's third film broke North American box office records.

Sony Pictures chief executive Michael Lynton told the BBC: "Everybody has every intention of making a fourth, a fifth and a sixth and on and on."

There would be "as many as we can make good stories for", he pledged.

Spider-Man 3 is now the most successful new release in history, making $148m (74m) in its opening weekend.

That beat the previous best of $136m (68m) set by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest last year.

When everybody comes up for air, we can think about how to make the next one
Michael Lynton
Sony Pictures chief executive
Mr Lynton told the BBC News website the figures "way exceed our expectations".

He was "really over the moon" that it had done better than the first two instalments in the Spider-Man series, he said.

"I think it had a lot to do with timing - the fact we were the first out in the summer.

"I think it had to do with the fact that the movie had a universal appeal, it had a broader appeal than the second movie, it attracted a family audience and brought the family audience back.

"There were many factors that contributed to it, and there's a part that you just put down to 'I don't know'."

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - $136m (2006)
Spider-Man - $115m (2002)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - $90m (2001)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park - $72m (1997)
Batman Forever - $53m (1995)
Source: Boxofficemojo.com
There has been much speculation about the big screen super-hero's future, but Mr Lynton said the weekend figures gave them a major reason to keep the franchise alive.

"Everybody's been so busy trying to get this one out that that's been the focus," he said. "When everybody comes up for air, we can think about how to make the next one."

The third Spider-Man film sees Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, battle the darker side of his personality and try to hold on to his love interest Mary Jane Watson, played by Kirsten Dunst.

It may have received an enthusiastic reception from fans - but the critical response was less than glowing.

'Plain awful'

The Washington Post said the film was "plain awful", while The New York Post called it "overly long and complicated". But Mr Lynton said the reviews had made little difference.

"What uniformly seems to be the case it that the exit polls show that the audience really loved the movie, and that's what counts," he said.

Spider-Man's box office record will come under pressure later this month when two more "threequels" - the third Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek films - come out.

Shrek the Third has its premiere in Los Angeles on Sunday, two weeks before its US release, while Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is released one week later.

The original Spider-Man film, released five years ago, took $115m (58m) in its opening weekend - and is still third on the all-time new release chart, according to expert ticket site boxofficemojo.com.

The follow-up, which came out in 2004, had relatively paltry first-weekend takings of $88m (44m).

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