The summer movie season is off to a blockbuster start thanks to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The superhero extravaganza grossed an estimated $185 million US in ticket sales in its first weekend in U.S. and Canadian theatres, the Walt Disney Co. said Sunday.
Not only did it more than double the opening of the first Doctor Strange, which opened to $85 million US in 2016, it's also the biggest opener of the year, ahead of The Batman's $134 million US; the second-biggest of the pandemic, behind Spider-Man: No Way Home's $260.1 million US; and the sixth biggest of all time globally.
Internationally, it's doing even better with an estimated $265 million US since opening Wednesday. In total, Doctor Strange 2 has already made $450 million US.
Spider-Man is at least partially to thank for the massive debut. Benedict Cumberbatch's powerful sorcerer appeared prominently in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has become the third-biggest movie of all time since opening in December. Doctor Strange 2 picks up several months after the events of No Way Home, and brings in Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff, who became even more popular thanks to the recent Disney+ series WandaVision.
The film also has a gigantic footprint. It's playing in 4,534 theatres in the U.S. and Canada alone, which according to Disney is the seventh-widest opening ever. Premium format screens, including IMAX and 3D, accounted for 36 per cent of the overall box office.
"Summer blockbuster season is off to a roaring start with Doctor Strange — an excellent sign for the phenomenal slate ahead," Rich Gelfond, the CEO of IMAX, said in a statement.
'A return to normalcy'
Hollywood's summer movie season typically kicks off in early May and runs through the end of August and — aside from the last two years — regularly accounts for over $4 billion US in ticket sales (or about 40 per cent of the year's grosses).
Sam Raimi stepped up to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which reportedly cost around $200 million US to make — though that number doesn't account for the many more millions spent on marketing and promotion.
Over the weekend, the film has trended on social media for everything from its many cameos to a spirited debate over its PG-13 rating (the film is rated PG in Canada) and whether or not the horror elements warranted something more restrictive.
"This is a total win for the industry for whom the last two summers almost didn't exist in terms of box office," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. "Marvel has been kicking off summers for over a decade. This is a return to normalcy."
There was little left for other movies playing in theatres. Part of that is due to the fact that many multiplexes chose to pack their theatres with wall-to-wall Doctor Strange screenings. Film Critic Matt Singer tweeted a photo of a Manhattan AMC offering 70 screenings on Thursday alone.
Universal and DreamWorks Animation's The Bad Guys fell to second place in its third weekend with an estimated $9.8 million US, while Sonic the Hedgehog 2, from Paramount, landed in third with $6.2 million US.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore took fourth with $3.9 million US, bringing its domestic total to $86 million US. And in fifth place was another multiverse-themed film, Everything Everywhere All At Once. It had a slight dip in its seventh weekend, but is still speeding along with an additional $3.3 million US from 1,542 screens in its seventh weekend in theatres. The A24 film has grossed $41.6 million US total.
The success of Doctor Strange 2 only helps build momentum for the big summer movies on the way, like Top Gun: Maverick on May 27.
"We've got a real summer movie season on our hands, something we couldn't have imagined two years ago," Dergarabedian said. "It's been a long time coming."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore (final domestic figures will be released Monday):
1. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, $185 million US.
2. The Bad Guys, $9.8 million US.
3. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, $6.2 million US.
4. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, $3.9 million US.
5. Everything Everywhere All At Once, $3.3 million US.
6. The Northman, $2.8 million US.
7. The Lost City, $2.5 million US.
8. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, $1.5 million US.
9. Memory, $1.2 million US.
10. Father Stu, $800,000 US.