Walt Disney and Marvel’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opened domestically with a whopping $185 million, with 36% coming from IMAX and related PLF formats. That’s, give or take where the final figures end up on Monday morning, the 11th-biggest unadjusted-for-inflation opening weekend of all time. It’s behind Disney’s Black Panther ($202 million over the Fri-Sun frame of a $242 million President’s Day launch), The Lion King ($191.8 million in 2019) and the $191.2 million launch of Avengers: Age of Ultron on this weekend in 2015. It is now Marvel’s seventh-biggest opening behind Age of Ultron, Black Panther, The Avengers ($207 million on this weekend in 2012), Avengers: Infinity War ($258 million in late April 2018), Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home ($260 million in December of 2021) and Avengers: Endgame ($356 million in late April 2019).
Of the top 16 opening weekends of all time, from Avengers 4 to Iron Man 3 ($174 million on this weekend in 2013), only Universal’s Jurassic World ($208 million in June of 2015) isn’t a Disney and/or MCU movie. Inflation paints a slightly different story (The Dark Kight opening with $157 million in 2008, Harry Potter earning $169 million in 2011, both of which would be $195-$200 million in 2022 ticket prices), but not that different and especially not since 2012. Disney and/or Marvel has dominated the once-fabled (and competitive) opening weekend milestone. As noted yesterday, in the decade since The Avengers swiped the record from Harry Potter 7.2 and scored the first $200 million opening weekend (ironically a decade after Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man became the first $100 million-plus opener), audiences have made their choice clear.
As for this Sam Raimi/Michael Waldron sequel, it’s a robust 117% jump from Doctor Strange’s $85 million debut in November of 2016, which may be a record for an “opened wide on a Friday” sequel to an “opened wide on a Friday” tentpole. That leaves out The Dark Knight and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest since Batman Begins and Curse of the Black Pearl both opened on a Wednesday. This isn’t about small-scale hits like Pitch Perfect, Austin Powers, The Terminator and Lethal Weapon that spawned monstrously successful breakout sequels. Marvel sold and audiences indeed treated Doctor Strange 2 as an MCU event movie/mythology episode on par with Captain America: Civil War ($179 million in 2016). Stephen Strange appearances in Thor: Ragnarök, Avengers: Infinity War and Spider-Man: No Way Home only increased interest in another solo sequel.
As far as weekend legs, 2.05x isn’t very good for this specific weekend, and it’s not like it’s a Christmas release like The Force Awakens or Spider-Man: No Way Home that’ll get two weeks of holiday/year-end weekday grosses. Will some of the “issues” (the cameos mostly being a bait-and-switch, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch going from sympathetic WandaVision anti-hero to hardcore baddie, the “too scary for very young kids” elements, etc.) impact word of mouth and/or legs or is that just online discourse? Add in a B+ Cinemascore (only Thor and Eternals have also earned below an A- within the MCU), good but not superlative reviews (75% fresh and 6.5/10 from Rotten Tomatoes), and you have a tragic scenario where Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness might have to settle for most of the money rather than all the money.
If it legs domestically like Spider-Man 3 ($336 million from a record-breaking $151 million in 2007), Captain America: Civil War ($409 million/$179 million), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($381 million from a record-breaking $169 million in 2011) or Black Widow ($183 million/$80 million while being concurrently available for $30 on Disney+), it’ll reach $411-$423 million domestic. It could flatline like Batman v Superman ($330 million/$166 million) and end up with “just” $367 million domestic (below The Batman, natch). Yes, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness somewhat trolls those who claim to only care about the cameos and/or put Wanda Maximoff on the same #girlboss pedestal as Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen. It’s by default Marvel’s most subversive movie since Iron Man 3, but Iron Man 3 (with better reviews and an A from Cinemascore) did earn $1.215 billion worldwide.
Speaking of which, the $200 million horror fantasy did earn $450 million worldwide, including $33 million in IMAX. That’s sans China which seems to be inventing arbitrary reasons (like too much Statute of Liberty in Spider-Man: No Way Home) to deny releases for Marvel movies, and sans Russia and Ukraine. Again, using Batman v Superman as a worst-case scenario ($873 million from a $424 million global launch), Doctor Strange 2 would still get to around $927 million worldwide. That’s A) a China release away from the $1 billion milestone and B) about what it might have been expected to earn in non-Covid times. Even legs like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($1.342 billion from a $484 million global launch) gets this MCU sequel to $1.247 billion worldwide, which is right between Iron Man 3 and (fittingly enough) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ($1.308 billion).
I’m guessing it may end up somewhere in between those two. Working in the film’s favor is that A) online discourse aside, general audiences seem to mostly think it’s fine and B) there’s not much else this month before Top Gun: Maverick on Memorial Day weekend. With Sonic 2 and The Bad Guys skewing young and Downton Abbey: A New Era skewing older, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the only four-quadrant biggie in the marketplace for the next three weeks. My only concern, however unlikely, is that the film does play a little frontloaded and that Disney and/or Marvel panics and makes the next batch a bit more generic and/or “fan-friendly” or “Twitter-friendly,” whatever the hell that might mean. I’d like to think all parties learned from The Rise of Skywalker, but you never know.