Happy times are here again for movie theaters this weekend with Disney/Marvel’s long-awaited Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set to fire up the summer box office season we didn’t have a year ago.
The movie, which fans are anticipating to be a three-pronged sequel to previous Marvel blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home (which teed up events with the Benedict Cumberbatch character) and Disney+ series WandaVision and Loki, is eyeing a $160M-$180M domestic start in what is the widest release ever during the pandemic era at 4,400 theaters, plus another $140M+ overseas.
That would yield at least a $300M worldwide start, which would rep the second-best box office debut of the Covid era after No Way Home‘s $582M WW and ahead of The Batman‘s $251M WW. Similar to Batman, Doctor Strange 2 won’t have Russia and China in its offshore bookings. In addition, most of the Middle East isn’t playing the Marvel sorcerer given LBGTQ elements in the pic.
Doctor Strange 2 currently sits at 79% fresh off 115 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to No Way Home‘s 93% certified fresh from 410 reviews, and the question heading into the weekend is how much this byzantine tale will over-index. Does it play strictly to the Marvel fans, or will it rally the unfaithful? Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff is seen as a plus in regards to attracting a potentially younger female demo than usual for an MCU title.
Another selling point for the core fanbase: The sequel reps the return of Sam Raimi to the MCU; his last time in the directing chair being for Sony’s original Spider-Man trilogy of 2002-07.
Currently, Doctor Strange 2 U.S./Canada presales stand at $60M, which is ahead of Warner Bros.’ The Batman‘s $42M at the same point in time before its opening back in March, and behind No Way Home‘s $120M. However, a bulk of Doctor Strange 2‘s tickets are for Thursday night. So exactly how frontloaded is this movie?
Previews start Thursday at 3 p.m. sharp stateside, with the sequel also playing in 400 Imax auditoriums, 890-plus Premium Large Format screens, 2,600 3D locations, 250 D-Box/4D motion screens and 60 ScreenX locations.
The Batman‘s Thursday night, less midweek previews, did $17.6M, while No Way Home pulled in $50M.
It’s a fun week for Marvel fans as the season finale to another multiverse mindbender, Moon Knight, drops on Disney+ at midnight tonight. All eyes are also on the 3D share for Doctor Strange 2 as Disney will be rolling out the trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water exclusively in theaters for the pic’s first week.
Contrary to the 2016 film, Doctor Strange 2 is doing a simultaneous global release including all offshore markets in its opening suite. The action kicks off in such majors as France, Japan, Germany, Korea and Italy on Wednesday, and adds the UK, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Spain and India, among others, through Friday.
A key part of the weekend will be Korea, which has been very soft of late amid caution about returning to cinemas. The market saw a slight bump last frame, which could bode well. Important to recall that even despite the overall lull in the market, Korea massively turned up for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which minted close to $62M there.
Cumberbatch’s sorcerer first operated as a stand-alone in late October 2016. The like-for-like debut was $104M at today’s rates. That’s not the best comp, given that the MCU expanded afterward to include new characters on the big screen — and the blip. Looking at other MCU pics, Thor: Ragnarok opened to $141M offshore, and Captain Marvel — the film between the blips, which made it essential viewing — did $194M in like-for-likes. In terms of pandemic-era mega-movies, The Batman recently opened in like-for-likes at $117M abroad.
Stateside, the original Doctor Strange opened to $85M in 2016 and did a 2.7x off an A CinemaScore for $232.6M domestic, and $445.1M WW. Captain Marvel, which is another comp stateside, debuted to $153.4M, and an A CinemaScore and did a 2.8x multiple for $426.8M domestic final and $1.12 billion around the globe. Note that the latter film was leading into the final Avengers behemoth, Endgame, hence the long legs.
As a reminder, the ultimate Top 5 markets on the original Doctor Strange (excluding China and Russia) were Korea ($41.3M), the UK ($28.5M), Brazil ($22.7M), Germany ($17.4M) and Japan ($16.4M).