How ‘Doctor Strange’ success will prep theaters for ‘biggest test we’ve seen yet’

Marvel (DIS) has done it again.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opened at number one this past weekend, grossing $185 million in its domestic debut — the highest domestic opening weekend of 2022, and the second biggest opening weekend of the pandemic era, behind “Spider-Man: No Way” Home’s” $260 million opener.

The film generated an additional $265 million in international ticket sales, bringing its worldwide total to $450 million.

Estimates had placed the sequel to gross at least $160 million. For context, the first “Doctor Strange” opened at $85 million domestically in 2016, not adjusted for inflation.

“It was certainly unexpected, how big this was,” IMAX (IMAX) CEO Richard Gelfond told Yahoo Finance in a new interview, emphasizing the strong slate of content on deck.

“We always knew that this season would be really terrific, and we thought [‘Dr. Strange’] would be the kickoff. But it certainly was a kickoff in a bigger way than we expected,” the executive continued.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. (Courtesy: Disney/Marvel)

According to box office analytics platform EntTelligence, 13.5 million moviegoers were estimated to have seen the film over the weekend, representing the second most attended film since the pandemic started. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” took the top spot with 20.6 million patrons.

“This is the kind of start to the summer that the movie industry was really hoping for and it really sets the pace for the next few months with a pretty strong slate — that’s something we haven’t had in three years,” Shawn said. Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro.

Overall, “Doctor Strange 2” was shown in 4,545 theaters across the United States, the highest number of the pandemic-era and fifth-highest of all time.

The average ticket price sold for $12.99, with premium screens seeing an average price of $16.25. 3D tickets cost $15.44, EntTelligence noted.

AMC (AMC) snagged the highest average ticket price (excluding the premium chains) at $14.84, with Regal following closely behind at $13.77.

Doctor Strange 2 was shown in 4,545 theaters across the United States, the highest number of the pandemic-era and fifth-highest of all time.  (Photo: Getty Images)

Doctor Strange 2 was shown in 4,545 theaters across the United States, the highest number of the pandemic-era and fifth-highest of all time. (Photo: Getty Images)

As an added bonus, moviegoers had the chance to see the first teaser trailer of James Cameron’s highly anticipated “Avatar” sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

“This is a smart play for Disney to start the early promo for a James Cameron sequel, which is literally a once-in-a-decade event,” Robbins noted.

The theatrical exclusive was heavily promoted by premium theaters like IMAX, which saw a global weekend haul of $33 million — the chain’s biggest May opening ever.

Gelfond told Yahoo Finance that the new record did not even include China, with Shanghai theaters still shut down.

“That just gives you a sense of the magnitude of what’s going on with the pent up demand around the rest of the world,” the CEO emphasized, noting that about 75% of IMAX theaters are open in China, with Shanghai being the notable exception .

Still, the executive said he believes the issues in the country are “short-term.”

‘The biggest test we’ve seen yet’

The ultra-successful Marvel debut paves the way for a heavy slate of hot summer titles, including “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Lightyear,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” and yet another super hero flick “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

“The summer has always been so important, historically, for the industry. This is the first time in three years that the summer movie season started on time at the beginning of May, and the schedule looks very close to normal in terms of how many big movies we’ll get,” Box Office Pro’s Robbins explained.

“It’s absolutely the biggest test we’ve seen yet.”

'Top Gun: Maverick'  (Courtesy: Paramount)

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ (Courtesy: Paramount)

“Top Gun,” which is set to make its debut over Memorial Day Weekend, will be “a huge test for the adult, over-the-age-of-35 demographic,” the analyst said, adding that reviews will be an important component when it comes to the film’s opening weekend performance.

Still, despite soaring moviegoer confidence, the pandemic did change various consumer behaviors, which has, in turn, impacted certain types of releases.

“It’ll be those low- to mid-profile movies that we still have to keep a closer eye on,” Robbins cautioned, although he added that the industry is “at a point where we can confidently look at those big blockbusters and start to see near or at pre-pandemic box office benchmarks.”

Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Food Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter Replying to @alliecanal8193 or email her at

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