Can Movie Theaters Move Past the Blockbuster-or-Bust Era?

Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” has given the box office the sort of pre-pandemic summer launch that analysts expected with a studio-estimated $185 million opening from 4,534 locations.

Though that’s below the $202 million opening that industry estimates had following the MCU film’s $90 million opening day, it is still at the top of the $170-185 million estimate that Disney posted. Globally, “Doctor Strange 2” has earned an opening of $450 million, second only to “Spider-Man: No Way Home” for worldwide openings since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” should continue to drive robust turnout over the next two weeks before the market gets more support from films like “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” and “Top Gun: Maverick .”

However, weekend drops may be steeper than for the “Avengers” films that have released in this summer kickoff slot, as “Doctor Strange 2” earned a B+ on CinemaScore, joining “Thor” and “Eternals” as the third MCU film to not get an A or A- from audiences. But with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 75% critics and 87% audience and a 4/5 on Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak, reception is still generally positive, and we will see how an early summer MCU film performs with good word-of-mouth as opposed to overwhelming acclaim.

“Doctor Strange 2” is accounting for 84% of all estimated grosses at theaters this weekend, with no other films topping $10 million in their holdover totals. But Universal/DreamWorks’ “The Bad Guys” is doing decently as an alternative for families with younger children with $9.7 million in its third weekend, giving it a $57.5 million domestic total. This is unsurprising considering that “Doctor Strange 2” reported that kids under the age of 12 were just 4% of its opening weekend audience.

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Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is in third with $6.2 million in its fifth weekend, giving it a $170 million domestic total as it approaches $350 million worldwide. Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is fourth with $3.95 million in its fourth weekend and an $86 million domestic total.

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Completing the top 5 is the other big multiverse film in theaters, A24/AGBO’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The Daniels film’s weekend totals slipped below $5 million for the first time in a month with $3.3 million grossed in its fifth weekend in wide release. With a total of $41.5 million, it is now the fourth A24 release to cross $40 million in domestic grosses and should spend the $44 million total of the 2018 horror film “Hereditary” in the coming week.

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