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‘Doctor Strange 2’ conjures up biggest opening of 2022

AP – The summer movie season is off to a blockbuster start thanks to Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. The superhero extravaganza grossed an estimated USD185 million in ticket sales in its first weekend in United States (US) and Canadian theatres, the Walt Disney Co said on Sunday.

Not only did it more than double the opening of the first Doctor Strange, which opened to USD85 million in 2016, it’s also the biggest opener of the year, ahead of The Batman’s USD134 million; the second biggest of the pandemic, behind Spider-Man: Far From Home’s USD260.1 million; and the sixth biggest of all time globally.

Internationally, it’s doing even better with an estimated USD265 million since opening on Wednesday. In total, Doctor Strange 2 has already made USD450 million.

Spider-Man is at least partially to thank for the massive debut. Benedict Cumberbatch’s powerful sorcerer appeared prominently in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has become the third biggest movie of all time since opening in December.

Doctor Strange 2 picks up several months after the events of No Way Home, and brings in Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff, who became even more popular thanks to the recent Disney+ series WandaVision.

The film also has a gigantic footprint. It’s playing in 4,534 theatres in the US and Canada alone, which according to Disney is the seventh widest opening ever. Premium format screens, including IMAX and 3D, accounted for 36 per cent of the overall box office.

“Summer blockbuster season is off to a roaring start with Doctor Strange – an excellent sign for the phenomenal slate ahead,” CEO of IMAX Rich Gelfond, said in a statement. Hollywood’s summer movie season typically kicks off in early May and runs through the end of August and – aside from the last two years – regularly accounts for over USD4 billion in ticket sales (or about 40 per cent of the year’s grosses).

Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Stephen Strange in a scene from ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’. PHOTOS: AP
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff

Sam Raimi stepped up to direct Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which reportedly cost around USD200 million to make – though that number doesn’t account for the many more millions spent on marketing and promotion.

Over the weekend, the film has trended on social media for everything from its many cameos to a spirited debate over its PG-13 rating and whether or not the horror elements warranted something more restrictive.

“This is a total win for the industry for whom the last two summers almost didn’t exist in terms of box office,” said senior media analyst for Comscore Paul Dergarabedian. “Marvel has been kicking off summers for over a decade. This is a return to normalcy.”

There was little left for other movies playing in theatres. Part of that is due to the fact that many multiplexes chose to pack their theatres with wall-to-wall Doctor Strange screenings.

Film critic Matt Singer tweeted a photo a Manhattan AMC offering 70 screenings on Thursday alone.

Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys fell to second place in its third weekend with an estimated USD9.8 million, while Sonic the Hedgehog 2, from Paramount, landed in third with USD6.2 million.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore took fourth with USD3.9 million, bringing its domestic total to USD86 million. And in fifth place was another multiverse-themed film, Everything Everywhere All At Once. 

It had a slight dip in its seventh weekend, but is still speeding along with an additional USD3.3 million from 1,542 screens in its seventh weekend in theatres. The A24 film has  USD41.6 million total.

The success of Doctor Strange 2 only helps build momentum for the big summer movies on the way, like Top Gun: Maverick on May 27.

“We’ve got a real summer movie season on our hands, something we couldn’t have imagined two years ago,” Dergarabedian said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore.

1. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, USD185 million.

2. The Bad Guys, USD9.8 million.

3. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, USD6.2 million.

4. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, USD3.9 million.

5. Everything Everywhere All At Once, USD3.3 million.

6. The Northman, USD2.8 million.

7. The Lost City, USD2.5 million.

8. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, USD1.5 million.

9. Memory, USD1.2 million.

10. Father Stu, USD800,000.