Marvel Studios and Disney’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is on course to score $185 million to $200 million in its domestic debut and land one of the biggest openings of all time domestically after grossing an enormous $90 million on Friday.
Disney is being more conservative in suggesting an opening weekend in the $170 million to $185 range.
Friday’s haul — which included $36 million in Thursday previews — is the seventh biggest opening day of all time and gives the Marvel Cinematic Universe five of the top 10 opening days ever. It is also more than the entire opening weekends of 10 MCU titles, including the first Doctor Strange, which opened to $85.1 million in 2016, not adjusted for inflation.
Directed by Sam Raimi, the $200 million tentpole returns Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role. Doctor Strange 2 began opening overseas on Wednesday, grossing an impressive $139.3 million so far for an early global total of $229.3 million through Friday.
The sequel’s performance is a huge victory as Hollywood and theater owners kick off the summer 2022 box office season. After two years of struggle due the pandemic, studios are preparing to release a parade of delayed tentpoles.
Doctor Strange 2 is playing in 4,545 theaters, the widest location count of the pandemic and the fifth-biggest of all time, another sign that the movie business is emerging from COVID-19 after more than two years of fits and starts. While overall attendance is still down compared to “normal” times, moviegoer confidence is at an all-time high.
Another draw: Imax and other cinema operators are heavily promoting the fact that the first teaser trailer for James Cameron’s sequel Avatar: The Way of Water is premiering exclusively in theaters before Doctor Strange 2.
The generally well-reviewed superhero pic earned a B+ CinemaScore in the U.S., and so far is being fueled by moviegoers between ages 18-34. Males made up more than 62 percent of Friday ticket buyers.
After the first Doctor Strange, Cumberbatch’s character gained even more visibility when he appeared in Avengers: Infinity War and, much more recently, Sony and Marvel’s $1.9 billion blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home, which grossed a near-record $122 million on its first Friday (including $50 million in previews) on its way to a $260.1 million domestic debut.
If it hits $200 million, Raimi’s movie would boast the sixth biggest opening for a superhero title behind Black Panther ($202 million), The Avengers ($207.3 million), Avengers: Infinity War ($257.7 million), Spider-Man: No Way Home ($260.1 million) and Avengers: Endgame ($357.1 million).
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness picks up where No Way Home left off, with Stephen Strange coming to the assistance of a young girl named America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) who can jump across various universes. Now, however, a demonic force is trying to steal her powers.
Part sentimental, part horror, part comedy and always action-packed, the adventure that ensues sees the quirky superhero face-off with the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), meet up with an old flame (Rachel McAdams), enlist the aid of a former sidekick who has now transformed into the Sorcerer Supreme (Benedict Wong) and encounters Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). There are also key cameos regarding other MCU properties, but readers won’t find any spoilers here.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is rated PG-13.
May 5, 7:55 a.m. Updated with Friday grosses and revised estimates.