May 8, 2022 - Economy

"Doctor Strange" sequel snags $185 million in heroic box office debut


Marvel's "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" brought in a whopping $185 million at the domestic box office this weekend, making it the second-biggest domestic theater opener in the pandemic era.

Why it matters: "It's clearly a very important next step in getting the summer movie season back," said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

Details: The mega-hit starring British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, opened at No. 1 in all key markets and brought in roughly $450 million globally in its debut weekend, per Comscore.

  • The film marks the fourth-best Marvel opener of all time, behind "Avengers: Endgame," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Spider-Man: No Way Home," which still holds the record for the biggest opener of the pandemic era.
  • It soared past Warner Bros.' massive opener for "The Batman" earlier this year.
  • Domestically, premium formats like IMAX and 3D auditoriums accounted for more than one-third (36%) of the overall box office, a testament to moviegoers' desire to watch action films via a premium, big-screen experience.

Worth noting: The film did not debut in a few key markets, like Russia, Ukraine and China. It's unclear if China will give the film a release date, but given the country's recent history in blocking Marvel films, it seems unlikely.

Flashback: The summer movie season took a big hit during the pandemic, but analysts predict a significant comeback this year, thanks to a jam-packed summer movie slate.

  • In 2020, the summer box office drew just $176 million, compared to $4 billion on average during the pre-pandemic era. Last year, it drew $1.75 billion after getting a late start on Memorial Day weekend.
  • "Anything over $3 billion is a total win" this summer, Dergarabedian said. Pent-up demand could manifest in longer playability for movies or bigger grosses for movies that open this summer, he predicted.

The big picture: Marvel titles now account for five of the top seven pandemic era domestic opening weekends, per Comscore, as action and adventure films continue to draw big theatrical releases.

  • The pandemic pivot to streaming has permanently shrunk the theatrical window for movies that don't necessitate a big cinematic viewing experience, like dramas and comedies.
  • The box office may have scored a few big hits this year, but it's still down 43% compared to 2019.

What's next: This year's Memorial Day weekend box office is set to draw big numbers with hits like Paramount Pictures' "Top Gun: Maverick" sequel and Disney's "Bob's Burger's" movie debut.

Go deeper: The summer blockbuster is back

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