My bigger concern with Multiverse of Madness is its performance going forward. Meanwhile, our other Multiverse movie in the top ten continues its amazing run!
Weekend Box Office Top 10 (May 6th-May 8th) / 3-Day Weekend Gross / Percent Change from Last Week / Weekend # / Distributor), Weekend Actuals:
- Doctor Stranger in the Multiverse of Madness / $187.4 million / (N/A) / Weekend 1 / Disney
- The Bad Guys / $9.57 million / -41% / Weekend 3 / Universal (DreamWorks)
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 / $6.02 million / -48% / Weekend 5 / Paramount Pictures
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore / $4.26 million / -49% / Weekend 4 / Warner Bros.
- Everything, Everywhere, All At Once / $3.52 million / -36% / Weekend 7 / A24
- The Northman / $2.86 million / -55% / Weekend 3 / Focus Features
- The Lost City / $2.76 million / -28% / Weekend 7 / Paramount Pictures
- The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent / $1.58 million / -59% / Weekend 3 / Lionsgate
- Memory / $1.38 million / -55% / Weekend 2 / Open Road Films (Briarcliff Entertainment)
- Father Stu / $875K / -60% / Weekend 4 / Sony (Columbia Pictures)
12. The Duke / 371K / +218% / Weekend 3 / Sony Pictures Classics ($1,061 per theater in 350 theaters)
20. Petite Maman / $206K / +249% / Weekend 3 / NEON
26. Vortex / $31K / +86% / Weekend 2 / Utopia
Well, this weekend was surprising, in quite a few ways! Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness did indeed do well, though we do have some caveats to discuss going forward. Perhaps more interestingly, however, is that for the most part, everything else held really well. Even more surprisingly, it was the films that have so far been doing well on their own that ended up really thriving this weekend in spite of the competition pulling away their audiences. The only losers this weekend were the films that were already really weak. Outside of that, all other performers were stable so the only question is whether or not they thrived alongside Multiverse of Madness or preyed upon its weakness.
Just to reiterate, Multiverse of Madness did indeed do well. I was surprised and delighted to have been pretty close in my estimates of around a $180 million opening weekend as the film ended up coming in with $187 million today with the actuals (who doesn’t love being right?). In other words, the film performed right smack in the middle of expectations as its lowest projections saw it coming in with $160 million while the highest were looking at $220 million. Of course, middle-of-the-road for Marvel is fantastic by pretty much every other measure. $187 million reps the second-biggest opening weekend gross of the pandemic era (underneath only Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s $260 million take), the biggest opening of 2022 so far, and the seventh biggest opening weekend ever for an MCU title (not to mention the 11th biggest opening weekend of all-time). Even more noteworthy is that this opening also represents significant growth between installments, a difference of $102 million from the original Doctor Strange‘s $86 million in 2016. Sure, Multiverse of Madness did get a pretty heavy assist by bringing in Wanda/The Scarlet Witch, utilizing the multiverse concept directly after the success of No Way Home (and after the concept had been so effectively brought to the masses by Into the Spider-Verse; I feel that’s important to note), promising some “effective” cameo appearances, and generally selling itself as the first really “event” film of the MCU’s Phase Four. Still, the jump really speaks to the growth in popularity of the Doctor Strange character in the past few years. He followed up his own film with a fun and well-executed cameo in Thor: Ragnarok and was revealed to be a pivot piece of Avengers: Infinity War where he showed off an impressive array of powers. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance has also garnered a lot of fans (myself included) so it’s not a stretch to say that Doctor Strange himself (the character) was indeed a pretty big draw here. Internationally, the film took in around $265 million, adding up to a massive $448 million worldwide debut, further cementing the film as a successful launch.
So, why caveats? With such a strong launch, it would seem as though Multiverse of Madness could be too big to fail. However, now that I’ve actually seen the film (see my review here, if you’re interested), my interest lies more with how well it will do down the line. While the film has undeniably opened well, it also has opened to somewhat of a mixed reception. Once again, the Marvel filter makes it harder to imagine the film having mixed reviews with its 75% on Rotten Tomatoes (featuring an average score of 6.5/10), but that is actually pretty low for an MCU title. It doesn’t get any better when you add in the fact that it got a B+ Cinemascore, not a bad score necessarily, but certainly an indicator that general audiences found something lacking with the picture. Multiverse of Madness is only the third MCU film ever to receive a Cinemascore in the B-range, the others being Thor: The Dark World and Eternals, neither of which were particularly heavy-hitters at the box office.
The mixed reception can even be seen in the actual box office numbers themselves this weekend, which showcase Multiverse of Madness as surprisingly frontloaded. Starting with an impeccably strong $36 million preview gross on Thursday night which translated into a whopping $90 million opening day Friday, Multiverse had the potential to gross $200+ million. Instead, it ended up tumbling noticeably on Saturday and Sunday, with Saturday coming in with -36% and a gross of $57 million while Sunday ended up with -33% for a gross of $38 million. That made for a surprisingly low weekend multiplier (the total weekend gross divided by the opening day gross) of x2.07. Similarly to how we talk about multipliers when regarding a movie’s overall legs at the domestic box office, x2.07 is not good at all and indicates severely mixed (if not negative) word of mouth on the picture. Even more damning are comparisons the aforementioned Thor: The Dark World and Eternals, which each received mixed reviews and weaker box office yet still had stronger multipliers from their opening days to total weekend grosses. Dark World actually managed a very healthy multiplier of x2.74 (thanks in large part to an incredible boost of +1% from Friday to Saturday) while the major box office flop that was Eternals, itself having a similar pattern of drops to Multiverse with respective Saturday and Sunday drops of -22% and -32% respectively, still managed a x2.36 multiplier its opening weekend. All this continues to point to a mixed reception from audiences, which is in line with the discourse that surrounded the film this weekend and casts some suspicion on just how well the film will play out in the long term, especially as the market begins to get more crowded than its been in two years.
In trying to gauge the film’s future, we can gain some insight by looking at the two MCU films whose openings are closest to that of Multiverse fo Madness, Avengers: Age of Ultron with $191 million, and Captain America: Civil War with $179 million. Both of them are intriguing to compare to Multiverse not only because they all opened comparably, but because both Ultron and Civil War have the unique distinction of being successful billion-dollar earners while also having surprisingly short legs as far as Marvel films go. While each did open big and go on to gross over $1 billion worldwide, the two of them actually have legs much more comparable to that of Eternals (having an opening weekend to domestic total multiplier of x2.31) with Ultron having a x2.4 multiplier and Civil War having x2.28, making it the least leggy film in the MCU. Their opening weekend multipliers are not too far off either, with Ultron growing x2.27 from its opening day to its opening weekend gross and Civil War doing only x2.38. As for what this means for Multiverse of Madness, it is a good sign as it suggests that such a dismal multiplier and mixed audience reception should not prevent the film from still doing quite well. That said, if there is any correlation here between a weak opening weekend multiplier and a low multiplier for a film’s overall domestic gross, it would suggest that Multiverse of Madness is unlikely to do much more domestically than about twice its opening weekend.
Currently, Multiverse of Madness is tracking most closely alongside that of Age of Ultron, a film that similarly opened big thanks to massive anticipation but was met with overall mixed, or at least flatter reception than expected. If Multiverse of Madness legs out just like Age of Ultron, it would end its domestic run with $448.8 million, and should it keep the same domestic/international split it currently sports, it would still indeed reach the billion-dollar mark (even if by the skin of its teeth with $1.073 billion) which would be a success. That said, the next few weeks are going to be crucial for the film to maintain its momentum if it is to hit that mark. The next two weeks, in particular, have very little in the way of competition, and the only thing that could come close to posing much of a threat soon is that of Jurassic World: Dominion on June 10th which has a similar level of broad appeal (Top Gun: Maverick also comes out in three weeks, but that film is likely to play older than Multiverse, whose biggest demo was, unsurprisingly, 18-34 year-olds). With that, Multiverse has a lot of room to spread its wings and prove that the mixed reception won’t bog it down. The odds are still in its favor, but I am abundantly curious to see just how well it will hold next weekend, as that might be the key to understanding whether this is another true MCU box office triumph or if is a weaker than expected entry. Only time will tell.
With regard to the rest of the top ten, I was surprised and delighted to see a rising tide lifting all boats. Whereas Multiverse has an air of mystery about it in terms of the true nature of its performance, there was a clear delination amongst the rest of the entries as to what is working in the market and what isn’t as all the films that have been doing well so far had great holds while films that were already struggling ended up dropping harder. Unsurprisingly, family-fare was the strongest at the box office with both The Bad Guys and Sonic 2, as predicted, holding up very nicely against the slightly more adult and horror-tinged Multiverse of Madness. Surprisingly enough, even my own numerical predictions as to their holds were pretty spot on. I saw The Bad Guys holding the best at around -40% and sure enough, it dropped only -41% for a gross of $9.57 million in second while Sonic 2 held by -48% (better than, but still not far off from the -50% drop I predicted) for a gross of $6 million in third. The Bad Guys currently stands at $57.37 million domestic and $147.31 million worldwide, officially having broken even on its $70 million budget, and has just outpaced Abominable (one of its closer comparisons) at this same point in its release cycle. Now, The Bad Guys’ closest comparison is to that Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, though it’s even pulling ahead of that film substantially thanks to really strong holds. Internationally, the film is also going strong thanks to its Illumination-like qualities and I could see the film potentially hitting the $200 million mark worldwide, which would be a solid gross overall. Sonic 2, meanwhile, is already a smash and likely to hit $170 million domestic by tomorrow. It’s outgrossed its predecessor by $28 million and still has a lot of runway given that it has yet to hit Hong Kong and Japan where it will likely manage to rustle up a nice chunk of change. I hesitate to say that it will make it to $400 million worldwide (it currently stands at $332 million), but it’s getting closer and closer by the day.
Fourth place was home to Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which continues to sink, though it got a surprisingly sweet reprieve this weekend in the form of a much stronger than anticipated -49% hold and a $4.26 million gross. It’s nothing special as the film is still playing likely Morbius and won’t be making it to $100 million, but these past two weekends have seen it hold in the 40%s and that really speaks to just how much the Harry Potter/Wizarding World brand is still worth. I still know several people are jonesing to watch Secrets of Dumbledore and are just waiting for it to hit HBO Max. While I don’t expect to see another Fantastic Beasts movie any time soon, Warner definitely won’t be giving up on this property. Worldwide, it currently stands at $364 million and has a decent shot at topping out with $400 million.
Now on to my favorite part of these reports, talking about Everything, Everywhere, All at Once! I made what I thought was a bold prediction last week that Everything, Everywhere would hold by -45%, indicating that it had the strength to hold its own against a bigger, more broadly appealing multiverse movie. I made this prediction based on the performances of Ex Machina, Midsommar, and Lady Bird, but clearly, I was not bold enough as the “little indie that could” managed one of the best holds in the top ten with a drop of a mere -36% for a gross of $3.5 million. Lady and Gentlement, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once has officially passed $40 million at the domestic box office!!!!!!! That’s been the goal for a while now, so to see this ostensibly non-commercial film push past that benchmark and come out the other side of this weekend with $41.77 million in tow is such a phenomenal sight to behold; and the fact that the film still seems to have gas in the tank is just icing on the cake! Sure enough, Everything, Everywhere is officially the fourth highest-grossing A24 film ever in the domestic market and is soon to topple Hereditary and take third place. Having now past the $40 million mark and continuing to showcase drops below -40%, a $50 million domestic finish has now gone from being a distant dream to becoming a genuine possibility. It’s not a done deal by any stretch but, having carved out a space all its own and having people continuously show up to support it, I have a lot more faith in the film to be able to hit $50 million in the next three weeks. Should it do so, it would likely pass Uncut Gems and become the highest-grossing A24 film ever. All I will say is to cross your fingers!
Sixth place was home to The Northman, which held exactly as I predicted, dropping -55% for a gross of $2.86 million. Meanwhile, The Lost City managed to edge out Everything, Everywhere for THE top hold in the top ten with a staggering -28% hold and a gross of $2.76 million in seventh place. Going back to what I said earlier, the surprising thing about this weekend was that even though Multiverse of Madness came out and clearly dominated the audience by raking in a ton of cash, the films that have been doing well already ended up doing better while the films that were already struggling continued to do so. Case in point, The Lost City, whose audience was arguably the most divergent from Multiverse of Madness, had one of the best holds of its run as made it to a domestic total of $94.65 million and continues to inch ever closer to that $100 million mark (it was reported today that the film will be debuting on Paramount+ tomorrow, so next weekend will be a major test of its ability to withstand a streaming release diluting its earning potential). On the other hand, the artsy Viking epic that is The Northman lost many of its IMAX screens and sunk with its worst hold yet as everyone who was planning to see it in theaters already has. Part of me wonders if the increased amount of people coming to the movie theaters during a weekend like this, specifically for a major blockbuster, simply results in a natural runoff of audiences and money into other popular films, but it is more likely that the diversity of product that we have here simply means that every demographic (specifically age demographic) is being catered to. No matter the reason, it’s fun to see one of my favorite movies of the year doing so well and I do sincerely hope that people try out The Northman as it trickles down into the rental market.
Closing out the top ten were The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Memory, and Father Stu in eighth, ninth, and tenth place, respectively; further proving my point that the films that weren’t doing all that well to begin with were the ones that really got hit hardest by the entrance of a blockbuster into the arena. Both Massive Talent and Father Stu dove -60% (though Father Stu, to be fair, did lose over 1,200 theaters) for respective grosses of $1.58 million and $875K, with Father Stu looking to top out right on target with about $21 million domestic by the end of its run and Massive Talent aiming at an $18-19 million domestic finish. Memory held better than I expected it to with -55%, though that isn’t saying much as it only grossed $1.38 million and will likely finish right on par (if not lower) with Blacklight‘s $9.5 million.
Finally, in the specialty market, there was little change as Petite Maman expanded into over 200 theaters and leaped +249% to a gross of $206K. Vortex also grew its theater count but did not seem the same kind of jump, instead bumping up to $31K. The Duke, meanwhile, continues to have a surprisingly commercial run for a specialty release, upping its theater count to 350 boosting its gross by +218% to $371K. It currently stands at $587K and continues to maintain a per-theater average of over $1,000 per theater, on par with The Northman and Fantastic Beasts. It continues to make me think it should’ve, or should soon go into wide release as it clearly is finding a nice audience. I personally hope I can see it soon because it looks absolutely delightful. I mean, Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, historical art pieces, and thievery?! What a treat!