Doctor Strange Takes Steep Drop, as Total Grosses Fall Below $100 Million Again

After nearly two weeks of play, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (Disney) sits at $688 million worldwide. It is headed to around $1 billion ultimately in theaters, a fine achievement, more so for a Marvel entry that clearly has not achieved the level of satisfaction that top entries like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” did.

The biggest opening of the year has hit its mark, but won’t exceed it. A 67 percent second weekend domestic drop, at the high end for comic book blockbusters, assures that. With $292 million in, look for it to easily surpass “The Batman,” currently at $369 million in U.S./Canada returns.

…but only because it opened with $52 million more than the D.C. Comics’ hit. Matt Reeves’ blockbuster made $66.5 million its second weekend, off 50 percent. Among recent start-of-summer Marvel releases, the drop has been within a lower, steady range of 55 to 59 percent. Last December, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” also fell 67 percent, but its exaggerated decline was tied to a second Friday landing on Christmas Eve, which is normally a dead zone for theaters.

“Dr. Strange” remained the dominant force in theaters, accounting for about two-thirds all grosses — and that’s the problem. Between its steep drop and only $31 million for everything else playing, the $92 million total continues an unsettling, ongoing pattern.

In 2008, “Iron Man” marked the beginning of theaters’ summer season starting by early May. Since then, apart from the two Covid years, no May weekend until now has grossed under $100 million. And the last one, in 2007 (which was just under), would equate to $130 million or more today.

Compared to this date in 2019, the current take is only 62 percent. One week, of course, is a snapshot, but our calculation over four weeks before and up to this one compared to three years ago is 67 percent. Year to date? Still below 60 percent despite the high flying “Strange.”


“Firestarter”

©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

After several weeks seeing little competition from home platforms for films in the Top 10, this week sees four of the titles, including two of the top four, with alternatives. Three are from Universal and affiliate Focus, with the Blumhouse Stephen King remake “Firestarter” streaming on Peacock from the start, and “Bad Guys” and “The Northman” following their usual pattern of going PVOD after three weekends.

“Firestarter,” with awful reviews and a dreadful C- Cinemascore, made a mere $3.8 million and managed to place No. 4 in a weak overall Top 10. Don’t blame Peacock — last fall, “Halloween Kills” followed the same release model and opened to $49 million.

“Bad Guys” remained No. 2, down 28 percent. No. 3 was “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (Paramount), which fell 23 percent by comparison. But the great hold champion remains “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24), down only 6 percent at No. 5, and likely hitting $50 million, best for the company, by the end of next weekend. “The Lost City” (Paramount), which debuted both on PVOD and on Paramount + this week, dropped 37 percent at No. 7, less than $3 million from $100 million.

Also opening was “Family Camp” (Roadside Attractions) a faith-based comedy placing ninth in 854 theaters with $1,427,000.

Big news this week was the announcement that The Landmark — the company’s most important theater and a dominant player in Los Angeles specialized exhibition for many years — is closing on May 31. The reason seems closely tied to the collapse of its grosses and an expensive location. Further evidence of what specialized exhibitors are up against comes from the expansion this week of the acclaimed film, “Happening” (IFC), which posted a very high 85 Metacritic score. Quickly adding 182 theaters to its initial four, it grossed a mere $59,000 playing nationwide at an array of top specialized and major circuit, specialty-friendly theaters. That comes to only an average of $312 per theater, with tickets prices at most over $10.

That’s frightening. IFC is adept at marketing their films for non-theatrical viewers, with the expectation that this will quickly hit home viewing. With the lower costs for acquiring and opening these films, it could turn out to be a winner for them. But for theaters, it’s a disaster. And it comes right before Cannes, when many new similar films will be available to acquire.


“Pleasure”

Courtesy Everett Collection

The porno-world set “Pleasure” (Neon) was the best of the new limited openings, with $17,824 from two theaters. That’s above average these days. “Montana” (Bleecker Street) debuted in four theaters with $20,104 total.

Next week sees “Downton Abbey: A New Era” (Focus), the best chance of late to test if older audiences are willing to return in big numbers. It’s a critical release. “Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount) premieres the following week and provides the next shot for theaters to really break out. It can’t come soon enough.

The Top 10

1. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$61,003,000 (-67%) in 4,534 (no change) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $13,455; Cumulative: $291,863,000

2. The Bad Guys (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #2; also on PVOD

$6,900,000 (-28%) in 3,788 (-51) theaters; PTA: $1,822; Cumulative: $62,284,000

3. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Paramount) Week 6; Last weekend #3

$4,550,000 (-24%) in 3,116 (-242) theaters; PTA: $1,460; Cumulative: $175,000,000

4. Firestarter (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: C-; Metacritic: 32; Est. budget: $12 million

$3,820,000 in 3,412 theaters; PTA: $1,120; Cumulative: $3,820,000

5. Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) Week 8; Last weekend #5

$3,303,000 (-6%) in 1,726 (+184) theaters; PTA: $1,914; Cumulative: $47,103,000

6. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend #4

$2,420,000 (-43%) in 2,578 (-473) theaters; PTA: $939; Cumulative: $90,046,000

7. The Lost City (Paramount) Week 8; Last weekend #7; also on Peacock

$1,730,000 (-37%) in 1,675 (-222) theaters; PTA: $1,033; Cumulative: $97,150,000

8. The Northman (Focus) Week 4; Last weekend #6; also on PVOD

$1,700,000 (-40%) in 1,934 (-479) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $31,158,000

9. Family Camp (Roadside Attractions) NEW

$1,427,000 in 854 theaters; PTA: $1,670; Cumulative: $1,427,000

10. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend #8

$1,050,000 (-34%) in 1,076 (-255) theaters; PTA: $976; Cumulative: $18,218,000

Additional specialized/limited/independent releases

Pleasure (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Sundance 2021

$17,274 in  2 theaters; PTA: $8,637

Montana Story (Bleecker Street) NEW – Metacritic: 72; Festivals include: Toronto 2021

$20,104 in 4 theaters; PTA: $5,026

The Innocents (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 76; Festivals include: Cannes 2021, New Directors/New Films 2022; also on VOD

$12,500 in 32 theaters; PTA: $391

Mau (Greenwich) NEW –  Festivals include: South by Southwest 2021

$7,500 in 2 theaters; PTA: $3,750

Jazzfest: A New Orleans Story (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2022

$7,469 in 5 theaters; PTA: $1,494

Happening (IFC) Week 2

$59,000 in 186 theaters; PTA: $312; Cumulative: $100,303

Lux Aeterna (Yellow Veil)  Week 2

$5,600 in 1 (+4) theaters; PTA: $1,200; Cumulative: $17,400

Vortex (Utopia) Week 3  39

$22,553 in 43 (+4)  theaters;  Cumulative: $93,364

Petit Maman (Neon) Week 4

$105,000 in 222 (-2) theaters;  Cumulative: $575,000

The Duke (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$246,005 in 246 3) theaters; Cumulative: $1,008,000

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