What ‘Doctor Strange 2’ Box Office means for summer blockbuster movies

The last two years the box office reports have been accompanied by an asterisk in the form of COVID: ticket sales have been [insert adjective of choice] for a pandemic.

After all, “Wonder Woman 1984,” “F9: The Fast Saga,” and every potential blockbuster in between could have generated more in ticket sales without the devastating global health crisis turning the cinema landscape around.

But as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” debuted at $ 90 million last October ($ 10 million more than its predecessor), and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is the second biggest domestic debut in history with $ 260 million, it began the warnings are fading. Add “The Batman” ($ 134 million debut in March) and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” ($ 71 million starts in April, $ 13 million more than its predecessor), and those numbers weren’t just significant for a pandemicthey were obviously significant.

And now “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” opened for $ 187 million over the weekend, recording not only the second best domestic launch since COVID-19, but also the 11th largest opening weekend in North America of all time. Only two non-Avengers parts in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe have reached similar heights at the box office. As Hollywood prepares for the blockbuster summer season, these milestones challenge box office viewers who wonder: Do big tents have the potential to perform at movie box offices the way they would before a pandemic? In other words, can we finally get rid of the star?

Film industry analysts believe that if Hollywood isn’t there yet, the cinema business is getting closer than it has been in the last 24 months.

“It’s very obvious that audiences have largely returned to theaters, especially on opening weekends,” says Jeff Bock, a cashier analyst in the exhibitor relations department. “This is a strong indication that the cash registers will be working on all cylinders this summer.”

“Doctor Strange 2” had a huge response in theaters as the comic book adventure functioned as a sequel to Sony’s $ 1.89 billion “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which also included Cumberbatch’s Beard Wizard and several well-placed cameos. The last Marvel blockbuster also received a boost as a sequel to two Disney + series, an Emmy-nominated “WandaVision” starring Elizabeth Olsen and a hypothetical animated series “What if …?”

Blockbusters were not immune to inflationary pressures, even if the higher costs in this case were somewhat artificial. Big chains, looking to take advantage of the continued success of big movies, have added $ 1 to $ 2 to ticket prices for “The Batman” and “Doctor Strange 2” in some cities, which has helped offset stagnant traffic levels. Look for price increases that will continue over the summer.

That reality suggests that not every high-budget film will exceed box office expectations by the same degree, as witnessed by the gloomy returnees of the spinoff “Harry Potter” “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” and Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters entry “Morbius,” despite to those films that originate from popular series. Nor does it apply to films aimed at relatively reluctant audiences, such as older women and families. But in the case of four-quadrant franchise films with massive built-in fan bases – like Marvel or “Jurassic World” – COVID may not necessarily be the culprit for less than ticket sales. This means that if a movie doesn’t go well at the box office, it’s more likely that the movie (or marketing efforts) just aren’t good, and the virus is less likely to keep people at home.

Of course, consumer confidence – and with it a return to the box office – could fall with the potential threats of new variants of COVID-19. But at the moment, the audience seems to be more relaxed about returning to the cinema than in the last two years. According to the National Research Group, which surveyed moviegoers on a weekly basis to assess their habits in the midst of a pandemic, 86% of them say they feel “very or somewhat” comfortable going to the cinema right now. This is the highest percentage since March 2020.

“Juicy wind [of COVID] is still a bit there, but we are approaching a normal market, ”says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

This is a good sign because Doctor Strange 2 is expected to start the hectic summer season of blockbusters. Hollywood is counting on “Top Gun: Maverick” (May 27), “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (July 1), “Jurassic World Dominion” (June 10), “Thor: Love and Thunder” (May 8). July) to some audiences are busy and popcorn pops up. Study insiders say the international coffers, which are key to raising revenue for high-budget blockbusters, are recovering. But that comes with a big warning because China and Russia, the two main markets, are basically inaccessible to Hollywood movies due to geopolitical tensions.

“The international outlook is a little more complex with varying degrees of market recovery,” says Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, “but event-level cinema has clearly proved robust during the recovery era.”

At domestic box offices, a crowded stock between the first weekend in May and Labor Day in early September typically accounts for 40% of annual revenue. The blockbuster season brought in $ 4 billion and changes in 2018 and again in 2019, according to Comscore. Those numbers dropped dramatically in 2020 when box office revenues totaled $ 176 million – or, less than “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” earned in one weekend. Sales rose slightly in 2021, to $ 1.7 billion, thanks to the sequel “Fast and Furious” “F9”, “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Black Widow”.

But box office analysts have boosted faith in the 2022 summer plan, believing the tent poles on the schedule could bring in twice as many returns as last summer. If true, popcorn season would be astonishingly close to returning to pre-pandemic levels. Other anticipated films, such as Disney’s spinoff “Toy Story” “Lightyear” (June 17), music biographical film directed by Baz Luhrmann “Elvis” (June 24), Jordan Peele’s twisted thriller “Nope” (July 22) and Sony’s film full of “Bullet Train” (July 29) will be key to increase ticket sales in the hottest months of the year.

If these movies are still ringing at the box office, then “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” will serve as a sign of the good things to come.

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