Courtesy of Marvel Studios
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is again the No. 1 movie at the domestic box office.
In its second weekend of release, the latest installment in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe has collected $61 million from 4,534 North American theaters. Ticket sales plunged 67% from its opening weekend, marking a steeper drop off compared to recent Marvel movies like “Eternals” (which declined 61% in its second weekend) and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (which declined 52% in its second weekend). However, its sizable decline is not surprising since “Doctor Strange 2” is coming off the 11th biggest opening weekend in history with $187 million. After 10 days on the big screen, the superhero adventure, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the supreme sorcerer, has grossed a strong $291 million in North America.
At the international box office, the “Strange” sequel added $83.5 million from 49 markets. In total, the film has grossed $688.1 million globally. It took less than two weeks for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” to outpace its predecessor at the box office. The original “Doctor Strange” ended its theatrical run in 2016 with $232 million domestically and $677 million globally.
When Disney unleashes a Marvel movie in theaters, rival studios tend to shy away from opening new films — or they risk getting crushed in its wake. Over the weekend, two movies opened nationwide to disappointing results. Universal’s disturbing remake of Stephen King’s “Firestarter” fizzled with $3.8 million from 2,412 screens while landing simultaneously on Peacock; and the Roadside Attractions faith-based comedy “Family Camp” generated a paltry $1.4 million from 854 locations. Neither of those films were particularly expensive to produce, so getting them to turn a profit may not be nightmarish, but it’s certainly not the kind of coinage that studios hope to generate when putting a new movie in cinemas across the country.
Directed by Keith Thomas, “Firestarter” was dinged by negative reviews and poor word-of-mouth. The film, about a girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers, landed a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes and a “C-” CinemaScore from moviegoers. That sentiment suggests the few people who saw the film over the weekend will not be rushing home to tell their friends to watch it in theaters. The only aspect of “Firestarter” that seemed to get people talking was shock that “High School Musical” heartthrob Zac Efron was officially old enough to play a dad on the big screen. And yet that alone was not intriguing enough to entice audience to their local multiplex. “Firestarter” was so badly received that The Daily Beast even recommended Efron “needs to call his agent. Immediately.”
Blumhouse, the company behind “Get Out” and “The Purge,” produced “Firestarter,” which also fizzled overseas. The film earned just $2 million from 40 international markets, bringing its worldwide tally to $5.9 million.
Just how bad were inaugural domestic returns for “Firestarter”? To put them in perspective, the original 1984 film, starring Drew Barrymore, had a bigger start — not adjusted for inflation — grossing $4.7 million from 1,356 theaters. The latest “Firestarter” may get a boost on Peacock, the streaming service owned by NBCUniversal, but the company did not provide streaming viewership metrics.
David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, believes ticket sales were flattened because the film is already available at home.
“‘Firestarter’ has a lot of production pedigree; Blumhouse and Stephen King are consistent hit-makers,” says Gross. But, he adds, “having the movie available on streaming at the same time it’s in theaters reinforces that this is not big-screen, must-see entertainment.”
At the domestic box office, “Firestarter” landed in fourth place behind holdover titles “The Bad Guys” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”
The animated heist comedy “The Bad Guys” remained in second place with $6.9 million from 3,788 North American theaters. After four weeks of release, the family friendly film has grossed $66.2 million domestically and $165 million worldwide. For Universal, “The Bad Guys” has been a boon in an otherwise spotty start to 2022. The studio’s recent releases, like Michael Bay’s heist thriller “Ambulance,” the globe-trotting adventure “The 355” and romantic drama “Redeeming Love,” haven’t made a dent in theaters. However, Universal’s luck should turn around in the coming months with “Jurassic World Dominion,” supernatural horror film “The Black Phone” and “Despicable Me” prequel “Minions: The Rise of Gru” on schedule.
Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” snagged the No. 3 spot, collecting $4.5 million from 3,116 screens in its sixth weekend in theaters. To date, the “Sonic” follow-up has generated an impressive $175 million in North America.
In fifth place, A24’s genre-hopping”Everything Everywhere All at Once” continues to dazzle in its eighth weekend of release. Buoyed by stellar word of mouth, the movie amassed $3.3 million from 1,726 theaters between Friday and Sunday, a scant 6% decline from last weekend. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,”a multiversal adventure starring Michelle Yeoh, has earned $47.1 million in its theatrical run. At this rate, it’s close to dethroning Adam Sandler’s “Uncut Gems” ($50 million) as A24’s highest grossing movie in North America.
Paramount’s adventurous romantic comedy “The Lost City,” too, is eyeing an impressive milestone, nearing the coveted $100 million mark at the domestic box office. The movie, starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, added $1.7 million in its eighth weekend in theaters, bringing its North American tally to $97.15 million.
“The Lost City” notched the No. 8 spot over newcomer “Family Camp,” which took ninth place. Brian Cates directed the PG “Family Camp,” a faith-based funny film about two polar-opposite clans who find themselves sharing a cabin in the woods. Roadside Attractions, the film’s distributor, noted the movie sold the most tickets in the midwest and the south.
On the indie scene, Neon opened “Pleasure,” an explicit drama about the adult film industry, on two screens, where it earned $17,274 over the weekend, translating to $8,637 per location. Directed by Ninja Thyberg, the well-reviewed “Pleasure” takes a look at the Los Angeles porn industry through the lens of newcomer Bella Cherry (portrayed by Sofia Kappel), who moves from a small town in Sweden to pursue her dreams of stardom.
Another specialty release, Bleecker Street’s Western drama “Montana Story” landed in four theaters and brought in $20,104, averaging $5,026 per screen. Haley Lu Richardson stars in the movie, which centers on estranged siblings who return to their family ranch to take care of their ailing father. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman described “Montana Story” as a “well-acted tale of family demons.”
Elsewhere, IFC Films expanded director Audrey Diwan’s abortion drama “Happening” to 186 theaters, where it took in $59,000 over the weekend. With a minuscule $312 theater-average, “Happening,” an especially timely story that unfolds while abortion is illegal in France, hasn’t sustained momentum since kicking off its platform release last weekend. The movie, which will continue to widen its domestic footprint, has grossed $100,303 to date.
Variety's Rebecca Rubin contributed to this post.