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LOS ANGELES, May 8 (Variety.com) – Doctor Strange and his questionably effective Book of Spells has grossed a $185 million box office hit in North American theaters over the weekend, reaffirming Marvel’s box office dominance. Disney’s Cinematic Universe after a more unstable pandemic. -Bad 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), “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 installments fell short of their franchise predecessors in terms of ticket sales.
Those box office returns mark the 11th biggest opening weekend in history. Given the anomaly of reaching those box office heights, “Doctor Strange 2” easily delivered the biggest opening weekend of 2022, as well as the second-biggest debut in times of COVID-19. Prior to this weekend, “The Batman” stood as the biggest opening weekend of the year with $134 million. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” still ranks as the biggest opening weekend of the pandemic (and second-biggest ever) with $260 million.
Overseas, the film grossed $265 million from 49 territories, bringing the global total to $450 million. With “Doctor Strange 2” not likely to open in China, Russia or the Ukraine, the film will depend on re-watching by audiences around the world to drive ticket sales past the coveted 1,000 mark. millions of dollars. Only “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has been able to cross that threshold since COVID took hold.
At the domestic box office, the follow-up to “Doctor Strange” surpassed its predecessor’s total opening weekend tally by a single day. “Doctor Strange 2” grossed $90 million on Friday alone, while the 2016 adventure “Doctor Strange” grossed $85 million between Friday and Sunday. Marvel and other major franchise movies tend to get a head start in terms of ticket sales because fans want to be among the first to see the movie, lest spoilers appear online and spoil the fun. Still, the sequel will quickly surpass the final box office tally of the original “Doctor Strange,” which finished its theatrical run with $232 million domestically and $677 million globally.
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“Doctor Strange 2” is benefiting as the follow-up film to Sony’s box office giant “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which became a can’t-miss movie event and grossed $1.89 billion worldwide. With the tantalizing adventures of Peter Parker as precursors, plus Disney’s marketing machine teasing big surprise cameos, “Doctor Strange” landed on rarefied air, even for a Marvel movie.
Imax, 3D and other premium format screens also contributed to higher grosses for “Doctor Strange 2,” which cost $200 million to produce, not including hefty marketing fees. According to Disney, 36% of total ticket sales at the box office came from premium formats. With $33 million from Imax alone, “Doctor Strange” ranks among the company’s top 10 world opening weekends.
“This is another sensational Marvel opening, by Marvel’s mainstream standard,” says David A. Gross, who runs the film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “‘Doctor Strange’ is growing its viewership 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 begins as the eponymous neurosurgeon turned Avenger, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, casts a dangerous spell that forces him to travel into the multiverse to face a mysterious new adversary and alternate versions of himself. Along with 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 successful summer 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 packed. With “The Multiverse of Madness” hitting theaters (and taking up almost every screen in the major circuits), several holdover titles rounded out the box office charts.
After two weeks at No. 1, Universal’s animated heist comedy “The Bad Guys” fell to second place with $9.7 million from 3,839 spots. Those returns bring the film’s domestic tally to $57 million.
Paramount’s family-friendly “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” took third place with $6.2 million from 3,358 theaters in North America. After five weeks on the big screen, the “Sonic” sequel has grossed $169.9 million at the domestic box office. It’s one of the rare pandemic-era sequels to earn more than its predecessor in theaters. Sonic’s first theatrical venture grossed $148 million in North America before COVID-19 forced multiplexes to close in March 2020.
“Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets” fell to No. 4 with $3.8 million from 3,051 screens. The final installment of the “Harry Potter” prequel series ranks as the lowest-grossing installment of the Wizarding World film franchise. “The Secrets of Dumbledore” has generated $86 million to date and may struggle to cross $100 million domestically, a benchmark that previous “Harry Potter” adjoining movies surpassed in a matter of days.
A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” beat out Focus Features’ “The Northman” for fifth place, as the former grossed $3.3 million from 1,542 theaters and the latter grossed $2.7 million from 2,413 theaters. This weekend’s turnout 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 its theatrical release seven weeks ago, “Everything Everywhere” has grossed an impressive $41 million in North America. “The Northman” has earned $28 million to date.
At the specialty box office, IFC Films opened Audrey Diwan’s abortion drama “Happening” in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, grossing $34,000 from four venues. That translates to $8,500 per location. “Happening,” which is set in 1963 France, hits the big screen at a politically charged moment, with the Supreme Court apparently poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. IFC plans to take the film to more than 100 cities across the country next week.
“IFC Films is committed to bringing ‘Happening’ to screens across the United States at this pivotal time,” said Arianna Bocco, President of IFC Films. “We hope that audiences will look to this film and that it will spark important conversations about our future. We are proud to continue our long tradition of sharing important stories powered by women with audiences across the country.”