‘Doctor Strange 2’ Debuts at Heroic $185 Million

Doctor Strange and his questionably effective spellbook grossed a $185 million blockbuster hit in North American theaters this weekend, reaffirming the dominance of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe at the box office after a shaky, pandemic-battered year for the franchise.

The timeline-bending “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” represents a return to form for Disney’s MCU after the COVID-era releases “Black Widow” ($80 million debut, plus $60 million on Disney Plus) and “Shang -Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” ($75 million debut), and “Eternals” ($71 million debut) Due to the pandemic and other extenuating circumstances, those deadlines fell short of their franchise predecessors in ticket sales.

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Those box office returns mark the 11th biggest opening weekend in history. Given the anomaly of hitting those box office heights, “Doctor Strange 2” easily delivered the biggest opening weekend of 2022, as well as the second biggest debut in COVID-19 times. Prior to this weekend, “The Batman” was the biggest opening weekend of the year with $134 million. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” still ranks as the largest opening weekend of the pandemic (and the second largest ever) at $260 million.

By contrast, the follow-up to “Doctor Strange” surpassed its predecessor’s entire opening weekend in one day. “Doctor Strange 2” raised $90 million on Friday alone, while 2016’s “Doctor Strange” adventure grossed $85 million between Friday and Sunday. Marvel and other major franchise movies tend to lead the way in terms of ticket sales, as fans want to be among the first to see the movie – otherwise spoilers will pop up online and ruin the fun. Still, the sequel will quickly blow past the box office count of the original “Doctor Strange,” which ended its theatrical run with $232 million domestically and $677 million worldwide.

“Doctor Strange 2” benefits as a follow-up to Sony’s box office behemoth “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which became a must-see movie event grossing $1.89 billion worldwide. With the tantalizing adventures of Peter Parker as a precursor, plus Disney’s marketing machine teasing some big surprise cameos, “Doctor Strange” ended up in thin air — even for a Marvel movie.

Imax, 3D, and other premium format screens also contributed to higher gross profits for “Doctor Strange 2,” which cost $200 million to produce, not counting high marketing costs. According to Disney, 36% of total ticket sales at the box office came from premium formats.

“This is another sensational Marvel opening, by Marvel’s own dominant standard,” said David A. Gross, who leads film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “‘Doctor Strange’ is expanding its audience with a stronger follow-up release.”

Sam Raimi, the mastermind behind the original Spider-Man trilogy, directed Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The film continues when the eponymous neurosurgeon turned Avengers, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, casts a dangerous spell that forces him to travel to the multiverse to face a mysterious new adversary and alternate versions of himself. In addition to Cumberbatch, the cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch, Benedict Wong as Wong and Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, a teenager who can travel between dimensions.

“Doctor Strange 2” kicks off the summer blockbuster season with a bang. In the coming months, “Top Gun: Maverick” (May 27), “Jurassic World Dominion” (June 10), and “Thor: Love and Thunder” (July 8) should keep theaters full of foot traffic. With “The Multiverse of Madness” looming large in theaters (and takes up almost every screen in major circuits), completed several titles of remaining box office charts.

After spending two weeks at #1, Universal’s animated heist comedy “The Bad Guys” dropped to number two with $9.7 million from 3,839 locations. Those revenues bring the film’s domestic total to $57 million.

Paramount’s family-friendly “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” took third place with $6.2 million from 3,358 North American theaters. After five weeks on the big screen, the follow-up to “Sonic” has grossed $169.9 million at the domestic box office. It is one of the rare sequels from the pandemic that earns more than its cinematic predecessor. “Sonic’s” first screen adventure cost $148 million in North America before COVID-19 forced multiplexes to close in March 2020.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” dropped to the #4 spot with $3.8 million from 3,051 screens. The final chapter in the “Harry Potter” prequel series is the lowest of the larger Wizarding World movie franchise. “The Secrets of Dumbledore” has so far generated $86 million and may struggle to exceed $100 million domestically, a benchmark that past “Harry Potter” adjacent films passed within days.

A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” beat the Focus Features film “The Northman” for fifth place, as the first brought in $3.3 million from 1,542 theaters and the last brought in $2.7 million from 2,413 theaters. This weekend’s rise continues a strong box office run for “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” a genre-defying film starring Michelle Yeoh, despite playing in far fewer theaters than “The Northman.” Since opening in theaters seven weeks ago, “Everything Everywhere” has grossed an impressive $41 million in North America. “The Northman” has made $28 million to date.

At the box office special, IFC Films opened Audrey Diwan’s abortion drama “Happening” in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, raising $34,000 from four locations. That translates to $8,500 per location. Set in 1963 in France, ‘Happening’ hits the big screen at a politically charged moment, with the Supreme Court seemingly poised to overthrow Roe v. Wade. IFC plans to bring the film to more than 100 cities across the country next week.

“IFC Films is committed to bringing ‘Happening’ to screens across America at this pivotal moment,” said Arianna Bocco, president of IFC Films. “We hope that audiences will look up to this film and that it will spark important conversations about our future. We are proud to continue our long tradition of sharing important women-driven stories across the country.”

More to come…

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