What does the “Doctor Strange 2” box mean for the Summer Blockbuster movies

Over the past two years, box office reports have been marked with an asterisk in the form of COVID: Ticket sales have been [insert adjective of choice] epidemic.

After all, “Wonder Woman 1984,” “F9: The Fast Saga” and every potential movie could have made more ticket sales without a devastating global health crisis upending the movie scene.

But with “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” debuting to $90 million last October ($10 million more than its predecessor) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” it landed the second highest domestic debut in history with $260 million. The caveats began to fade. Add in “The Batman” (debuting with $134 million in March) and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (it started $71 million in April, up $13 million over its predecessor), and these numbers weren’t just noticeable epidemicwas noticeable.

And now, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” opened to $187 million over the weekend, not only the second-best domestic release since COVID-19, but also its eleventh opening weekend in North America ever. Only two non-Avengers parts in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe have reached similar levels at the box office. As Hollywood prepares for its blockbuster summer season, these high-profile events are making box office watchers wonder: Do major support pillars have the ability to perform at the box office the way they did before the pandemic? In other words, can we finally get rid of the asterisk?

Film industry analysts believe that if Hollywood does not exist yet, the movie theater business is closer than it has been in the past 24 months.

“It’s very clear that audiences have come back in a big way to theaters, especially the opening weekend,” says Jeff Bock, box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “This is a strong indication that this summer’s box office will be operating by all accounts.”

“Doctor Strange 2” had an exceptionally huge blockbuster in theaters because the comic book adventure was a follow-up to Sony’s $1.89 billion giant Spider-Man: No Way Home, which also featured the impressive wizard Cumberbatch and a few other things. Good engraving in place. The latest Marvel movie also got a boost as a sequel to two Disney+ series, the Emmy Award-nominated “WandaVision” starring Elizabeth Olsen, and the virtual animated show “What If…?”

Successful films have not been immune to inflationary pressures, even if the higher costs are somewhat artificial in this case. Major chains, looking to capitalize on the continued success of big blockbusters, have added $1 to $2 to “Batman” and “Doctor Strange 2” ticket prices in some cities, helping to offset stagnant attendance levels. Look for the high prices to last all summer.

These facts suggest that not every big-budget movie will exceed box office expectations to the same degree, as evidenced by the poor returns of the spin-off “Harry Potter” spin-off “Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets” and Sony’s introduction to the Marvel Characters Universe’s “Morbius,” despite those films. Pop-up on popular soap operas. It also does not apply to films that cater to relatively reluctant audiences, such as older women and families. But in the case of franchise quadruple movies with huge built-in fan bases – like Marvel or “Jurassic World” – COVID may not necessarily be responsible for fewer ticket sales. This means that if a movie doesn’t do well at the box office, it’s likely that the movie (or marketing efforts) simply aren’t very good, and it’s less likely that the virus is keeping people at home.

Of course, consumer confidence—and with it, the return of the box office—could plummet with the potential threats of the new COVID-19 variants. But for now, fans seem more relaxed about returning to theaters than they have been in the past two years. According to the National Research Group, which has been polling moviegoers on a weekly basis to assess their habits amid the pandemic, 86% said they feel “extremely or somewhat” comfortable going to the movies right now. This is the highest percentage since March 2020.

“headwind” [of COVID] It’s still there to some degree, but we’re 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 a busy summer season. Hollywood based on “Top Gun: Maverick” (May 27), “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (July 1), “Jurassic World Dominion” (June 10), “Thor: Love and Thunder” (July 8) maintain Loud roaring and popping popcorn. Studio insiders say the international box office, a key factor in supporting the profits of big-budget films, is rebounding. But this comes with a big caveat that China and Russia, two major markets, are essentially inaccessible to Hollywood films due to geopolitical tensions.

“The international outlook is somewhat more complex with varying degrees of market recovery, but event-level cinema has clearly proven to be strong during the recovery era thus far,” says Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro.

At the domestic box office, the busy stretch 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 a change in 2018 and again in 2019, according to Comscore. Those numbers plummeted in 2020 when the box office grossed $176 million — or less than what “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” earned in a single weekend. Sales rebounded slightly in 2021, to $1.7 billion, thanks to the “Fast and Furious” sequels “F9,” “A Quiet Place Part II,” and “Black Widow.”

But box office analysts have increased their confidence in the summer 2022 slate, believing that the on-date pillars of support could yield double last summer’s returns. If true, popcorn season will be tantalizingly close to returning to pre-pandemic levels. Other highly anticipated films, such as Disney’s “Toy Story” “Lightyear” (June 17), director Baz Luhrmann’s musical biopic “Elvis” (June 24), Jordan Peele’s quirky thriller “Nope” (July 22) and Sony’s big, full-fledged The “Bullet Train” movement (July 29) will be a major factor in helping to increase ticket sales in the hottest months of the year.

If these movies keep the cash registers ringing, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will serve as a harbinger of good things to come.

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