Record-setting box office surges past $9 billion in 2002 -- Hits like ''Spider-Man'' and ''Greek Wedding'' drive movie admissions to a level not seen in more than 40 years

By Gary Susman
December 30, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Maybe 2002 was a year in which people REALLY felt a need for the escapism and comfort of the silver screen. Or maybe everyone just went to see ”Spider-Man” and ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding” to find out what all the fuss was about. Either way, ’02 is shaping up to be the most lucrative box office year in history, breaking the $9 billion mark for the first time, with more tickets sold than in any year since the late 1950s.

With two days left to go in the year, the Hollywood Reporter estimates that domestic grosses could go as high as $9.4 billion, with 1.6 billion admissions. The New York Times’ more conservative estimate has 2002 sales of $9.1 or $9.2 billion, with 1.5 billion tickets sold. Either way, that’s an increase of at least 10 percent over last year’s record take of $8.41 billion.

The year’s No. 1 movie was ”Spider-Man,” with an estimated $404 million. It outnetted by one-third the No 2. movie, ”Star Wars: Episode Two — Attack of the Clones,” which earned $310 million. ”Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” was third, with $240 million and counting, while ”Signs,” with $227 million, was fourth. At No. 5, ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the most successful independent film of all time, has earned $218 million this year, surpassing ”Austin Powers in Goldmember,” which finished sixth with $213 million. ”The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is at No. 7 with $200 million, though the two-week-old movie may have enough steam to rival ”Spider-Man”’s $400 million by the end of its run. Rounding out the top 10 were ”Men in Black 2” (No. 8, $192 million), ”Ice Age” (No. 9, $176 million), and ”Scooby-Doo” (No. 10, $153 million).

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