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Forest Hills’ ‘Spider-Man’ makes film history

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Comic book fans flocked to movie theaters such as the United Artists Midway Stadium 9 in Forest Hills last weekend in eager anticipation of the “Spider-Man” debut, carrying the film to box office records in its first three days.

Topping the mark set by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the blockbuster about a Forest Hills teenage superhero grossed $114 million in its opening weekend as theater owners accommodated fans with extra showings of the film.

Queens viewers had the added incentive of looking for familiar haunts in the borough in the first few minutes of the movie, which was shot in Forest Hills, Long Island City and other locations in the county.

Early Friday morning six super fans were at the front of a long line after arriving as early as 6:30 a.m. to vie for tickets for the film’s 11 a.m. showing at the Midway at 108-22 Queens Blvd. The theater has had 12 or 13 daily showings of “Spider-Man” since Friday, while most movies are shown only about five or six times each day.

“My expectations are high,” said an excited Frank Morales of Elmhurst. “I’ve been reading the comics since I’ve been this high,” he said, holding his hand three feet or so above the ground.

Movie theaters licked their chops as well at the thought of the business the movie and its stars, Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, would bring in.

“We expect to be real busy this weekend,” said the Midway’s concession supervisor, Angela Buxton, Friday morning. “We started selling tickets two weeks ahead of time.”

Their expectations were easily met as theaters nationwide sold out most of their shows. “Spider-Man” became the first movie to crack the $100 million barrier on an opening weekend and was expected to challenge box office mega-hits like “Titanic,” which brought in $600 million, and “Star Wars,” a $461 million winner.

Based on the buzz the movie has created and the excitement expressed at theaters like the Midway Friday, that could happen. As comic book junkies and action movie fans waited for the opening, they feverishly debated expectations for the film, hoping it would live up to all the hype. Some doubted the film could outdo the first Batman movie, which many comic book fans consider spectacular, but all were very anxious to see it.

Others expressed some disappointment that an unknown actor was not picked to burst onto the scene as Spidey, but most thought the film’s director, Sam Raimi, made a good choice in Tobey Maguire. “Spider-Man” has also generally been met with favorable reviews from critics and it is rare when a movie generates so much talk.

Borough residents who braved the crowded theaters on the record-breaking weekend got a bonus. Some of the film’s early exterior shots (along with its hair-raising finale) were filmed right in Queens. This was a definite surprise considering Hollywood prefers cheap California back lots to complicated New York City location filming.

Those from Woodhaven should recognize the surroundings in the picture’s very first scene as Peter Parker (Spider-Man) chases down his school bus, just a few blocks away from Woodhaven Boulevard. And although no street signs are shown, Parker’s house looks like many that occupy that part of the borough.

To top it off, the climatic duel between hero and villain begins on, of all places, the Queensboro Bridge. In what might be the first-ever big screen closeup of the Manhattan to Queens link, Spider-Man is forced to dart through its web-like system of girders and cables in order to save both his girlfriend and a packed Roosevelt Island tram car sent hurtling toward the East River.

While more Queens would have been nice (Parker moves to Manhattan 20 minutes into the movie), the snippets in the film are a familiar treat.

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Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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