Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Scores $185 Million at Box Office

Benedict Cumberbatch and Marvel give summer a head start with "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." Can movies outside the MCU do their part?
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, and Rachel McAdams as Dr. Christine Palmer in Marvel Studios' DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness"
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

With an opening weekend of $185 million, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” has restored the Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, the most lucrative franchise in film history, to the level exhibitors need. Male ticket buyers (62 percent of the total) propelled the gross, with 36 percent coming from higher-price premium formats.

Its opening ranks behind only the “Avengers” entries, fulfilling high-end expectations for not only the franchise, but also for Disney’s traditional Marvel date. The studio’s estimate might even be low: Disney projects that Sunday will be down 35 percent from Saturday and distributors typically project a 25 to 30 percent drop.

Disney’s pessimism has several sources. It has a B+ Cinemascore (lower than all but one MCU film), and a steep 36 percent Saturday drop from the Thursday/Friday combined total. There’s also the potential for Mother’s Day to impact turnout. Also, there’s no harm in exceeding expectations: a higher actual number released Monday would bring further positive attention. Worldwide, it has amassed $450 million so far.

Tilda Swinton
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in “Doctor Strange”Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” opened to almost 50 percent better at $260 million, but that film had the benefit of a legendary character.  “Madness” is the second to feature Doctor Strange and its opening more than doubled the initial 2016 gross. It is also more than $100 million better than “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” or “Eternals,” the prior Disney Marvel releases since theater reopened. (“Widow” was the best at $80 million, impressive considering it also debuted the same date on Disney+).

“Madness” propelled total weekend grosses to $220 million, a massive improvement after the rock-bottom $67 million last weekend. Compared to the first weekend of May 2019, It improved by 10 percent (that was weekend two for “Avengers: Endgame”). Our ongoing four-week rolling comparison to pre-Covid 2019 is now 75 percent.

Everything else grossed $35 million combined and that reflects the core problem facing theaters. The rest of the field, on a week-by-week basis, isn’t holding its weight. Four of the other top 10 titles dropped 40 percent or less, with “The Lost City” (Paramount) down 35 percent for the best hold. It is positioned to reach a surprise $100 million (at $94 million now). And “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24), the indie version of metaverse, held on to reach $41 million, with $50 million in view. That would be the distributor’s domestic best.

“Happening”Courtesy of IFC Films

The specialized world saw two acclaimed new releases find some interest. Audrey Diwan’s top Venice prize winner “Happening” (IFC) debuted in four New York/Los Angeles theaters (an initial theater-only release, unlike many IFC titles). The timely, 1970s-set French abortion drama took in $34,000.

The well-reviewed “In Front of Your Face” (Cinema Guild) from South Korean master Hong Sang-soo took in a decent $9,150 in one Manhattan theater. Gaspar Noe’s 52 minute “Lux Aeterna” (Yellow Veil) did a similar $9,000 at the Metrograph.  “The Duke” (Sony Pictures Classics) jumped to 350 theaters in its third weekend for $364,000. The key is whether word of mouth sustains its run. Neon got to 224 theaters for the French “Petite Maman.” The per-theater result for both films is around $1,000.

Going wider is the new normal and it does add to the ultimate gross. SPC was particularly known for much slower expansion plans.


The Top 10

1. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 62; Est. budget: $200 million

$185,000,000 in 4,534 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $40,803; Cumulative: $185,000,000

2. The Bad Guys (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$9,770,000 (-40%) in 3,839 (-203) theaters; PTA: $2,545; Cumulative: $57,572,000

3. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Paramount) Week 5; Last weekend #2

$7,100,000 (-38%) in 3,358 (-443) theaters; PTA: $2,114; Cumulative: $170,801,000

4. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #3

$3,950,000 (-52%) in 3,051 (-911) theaters; PTA: $1,295; Cumulative: $86,009,000

5. Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) Week 7; Last weekend #5

$3,324,000 (-40%) in 1,542 (-671) theaters; PTA: $2,155; Cumulative: $41,566,000

6. The Northman (Focus) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$2,770,000 (-56%) in 2,413 (-871) theaters; PTA: $1,318; Cumulative: $28,049,000

7. The Lost City (Paramount) Week 7; Last weekend #7

$2,500,000 (-35%) in 1,897 (-698) theaters; PTA: $1,318; Cumulative: $94,389,000

8. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #6

$1,525,000 (-61%) in 1,331 (-1,705) theaters; PTA: $1,145; Cumulative: $16,388,000

9. Memory (Open Road) Week 2; Last weekend #8

$1,220,000 (-61%) in 2,433 (-122) theaters; PTA: $501; Cumulative: $5,493,000

10. Father Stu (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #9

$800,000 (-64%) in 1,265 (-1,211) theaters; PTA: $632; Cumulative: $19,236,000


Additional specialized/limited/independent releases 

Happening (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 85; Festivals include: Venice 2021, Sundance 2022

$34,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $8,500

In Front of Your Face (Cinema Guild) NEW – Metacritic: 87; Festivals include Cannes, New York 2021

$9,150 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,150

Lux Aeterna (Yellow Veil) NEW –

$9,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,000

Firebird (Roadside Attractions) Week 2

$15,627 in 47 (-42) theaters; PTA: $332

Vortex (Utopia) Week 2

$31,212 in 39 (+38)  theaters; PTA: $800; Cumulative: $52,664

Petit Maman (Neon) Week 3

$186,000 in 224 (+193) theaters;  Cumulative: $342,301

The Duke (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$364,442 in 350 (+293) theaters; PTA: $1,041


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