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It's the type of comeback story Hollywood simply adores. The big, bad heavy has suffered an unexpected blow (that would be the film-industry-paradigm-destroying Netflix and its dire recent earnings results). Now, an old-school hero -- the traditional movie-theater business -- has a chance to prove there's still some gas left in the tank.
This weekend, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, the latest installment in Disney and Marvel's long-running, uber-successful costumed Avengers franchise, scored one of the biggest domestic box-office debuts of all time. This could be the beginning of a rollicking, sequels-and-superheroes-fueled summer movie season.
Dr. Strange Love (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Return to Theaters)
The Doctor Strange sequel is the 28th installment in Disney's big-screen dizzying universe of superheroes. The House of Mouse knows how to keep fans coming back for more, coercing general movie audiences to actually leave the comfort of their streaming-stocked living rooms in droves to buy tickets at their local theaters.
The film earned $185 million domestically, and a face-melting $450 million worldwide. That's good for the biggest opening of the year (besting Warner and DC's The Batman's $135 million domestic debut), the second-largest opening of the pandemic era (behind fellow Marvel superhero flick Spider-Man: No Way Home), and the eleventh biggest launch in Hollywood history (six of the other top spots also belong to Marvel properties).
The enormous success could indicate a strong summer movie season to come, with tentpole releases like Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, and Thor: Love and Thunder (yet another Marvel sequel) on the docket. While Doctor Strange may signal a return to form for big Hollywood studios, non-franchise and independent films have struggled to gain a foothold on the big screen:
- The Northman, a well-received Viking-themed revenge tale with a reported $90 million budget, has earned just $50 million worldwide since its April 22 release. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a Nicholas Cage vehicle that was released the same day to similarly positive reviews, has earned just $20 million worldwide so far.
- Doctor Strange 2 opened in 4,545 theaters, the highest count of the post-pandemic era and the fifth-highest of all time. In one extreme example, AMC's Times Square location hosted 70 screenings on its opening day -- taking valuable screen real estate from other films.
Hollywood may be celebrating, but cinephiles and moviegoers sick of spandex-clad celebrities may be happier sticking to their streaming services at home.