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‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ scores franchise best debut

Lindsey Bahr

AP – Four movies in, Thor is still bringing the hammer down at the box office.

Thor: Love and Thunder earned USD143 million in its opening weekend in North America, according to studio estimates on Sunday. It’s a franchise best for Thor and another success story of the summer 2022 box office season.

The second Thor movie directed by Taika Waititi opened on 4,375 screens this weekend, starting with last Thursday previews. It easily topped the box office, bumping Minions: The Rise of Gru into second place. Including international showings, where Love and Thunder opened in 47 territories starting in the middle of last week, its global total is already at USD302 million.

“It’s another home run for Marvel,” said Senior Media Analyst for Comscore Paul Dergarabedian. “It’s unheard of for a Marvel movie not to open at No 1.”

The Thor franchise has grown with each subsequent film, which is both a rarity in franchise filmmaking in general but also not uncommon for those of the Marvel variety. The first film opened to USD65.7 million in 2011, followed by USD85.7 million for The Dark World in 2013 and USD122.7 million for 2017’s Ragnarok. Waititi, who also directed Ragnarok, is widely credited with rejuvenating the series, infusing it with humour, irreverence and leaning into larger-than-life metal aesthetics.

Critics skewed mostly positive and the Rotten Tomatoes score is currently sitting at 68 per cent fresh. Audiences, who gave the film a B+ CinemaScore, were heavily male (60 per cent) and 53 per cent were between the ages of 18 and 34, according to exit polls. IMAX reported that USD23 million of the global total came from their screens.

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’. PHOTO: AP

Love and Thunder brings back Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman, whose Jane Foster becomes the Mighty Thor. Russell Crowe also co-stars as Zeus and Christian Bale plays the villain Gorr the God Butcher. It also boasts the biggest production budget of the Thor films, at a reported USD250 million.

And yet, it’s noteworthy that Thor: Love and Thunder isn’t even the biggest Marvel opening of the year. That title is held by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which debuted to USD185 million in early May on the heels of the box office phenomenon that was Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The Minions carved out a second-place spot with USD45.6 million in weekend two, bringing its domestic total to USD210.1 million and its worldwide grosses to USD399.9 million.

The summer’s workhorse Top Gun: Maverick placed third in its seventh weekend in theatres with USD15.5 million. With its domestic total currently at USD597.4 million, the Tom Cruise film is poised to cross USD600 million by Monday – one of only 12 films ever to do so.

In limited release, the documentary Fire of Love launched this weekend in three locations and made an estimated USD22,328, while Claire Denis’ Both Sides of the Blade earned USD25,000 from four locations.

The weekend should net out with around USD236.1 million total, which Dergarabedian said is “truly impressive”.

“Every week, the marketplace becomes more pre-pandemic like,” he said. “This feels like a traditional summer movie season weekend. It’s a huge difference from a year ago.”

The summer 2022 box office continues to look bright for both Hollywood and theatre owners, up 217 per cent from last summer. The year as a whole passed the USD4 billion mark last week which is up 233 per cent from last year but still trailing the last pre-pandemic box office year, 2019, by 30 per cent.

“Audiences are embracing the movie theatre experience with a greater enthusiasm,” Dergarabedian said. “By now, every demographic is interested in going back to theatres. The challenge for theatres going forward is just having enough new movies.”