Last week, many opined that the era of the big family film had returned to the box office. Well, one did. As for the rest, that remains to be seen. But the Marvel era continues, and even with some limited returns by pandemic standards and co-streaming options, the brand is very much out in force, as witnessed by the $400 million returns of Doctor Strange and now again with the latest Thor film. The fans are certainly showing up now, but one wonders if the day will come when a demand for the quality of the earlier phases will begin to catch up with these films. On the bright side, however, attendance this weekend in the top 10 drove the box office to the fourth-best July weekend ever and the greatest second weekend ever in the month.
(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
The Thor movies over time have gained in popularity as the MCU straightened its brand over the years. The first film in 2011 opened to $65.7 million and finished with $181 million. Its sequel, Thor: The Dark World, went from a summer release to November and started with $85.7 million and finished with over $206 million. When Taika Waititi was given the reins for the 2017 release of Thor: Ragnarok, its less serious tone and jokey jokiness resulted in another November haul of over $122 million to start and over $315 million domestically. Thor: Love and Thunder again has reached a new height. At least according to ticket sales.
The good will of Ragnarok and a return to the summer season have brought the latest Waititi-helmed chapter to open with $143 million. That’s the 12th-best opening within the MCU (counting the Spider-Man films) and nearly halfway to becoming the 18th film in the Universe to pass $300 million domestically (it has already surpassed that globally). While Marvel is riding a nice crest after Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (we’ll leave Morbius as an outlier) there is some suggestion that some fans may not be entirely down with Marvel’s so-called Phase Four. The die-hards may not consider critics fans, but they should be reminded from time-to-time that the only film on the Tomatometer in the MCU to receive a Rotten Tomatometer score was last November’s Eternals (48%). DC fans certainly have their opinions on that, but the numbers are the numbers, and here is another for you: Love and Thunder is just the fourth MCU film to earn a score lower than 70%. Its current 68% Tomatometer is down there with Eternals, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk (67%) and Thor: The Dark World (66%). And that is just with critics.
(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
Fans surveyed by Cinemascore are also showing some cracks in the Marvel armor. Prior to Love and Thunder there were only three MCU films to poll lower than an “A-.” They were the original Thor (B+), Eternals (B), and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. With this weekend’s film also receiving a B+, that is two in a row and three of the last four after more than 13 years of films. Polls and critical statistics notwithstanding, is there any correlation at the box office? Among the five weakest multiples from opening weekend to final gross, three of the MCU’s have been released in the last year, including Eternals (2.31), Black Widow (2.28), and its weakest to date in Multiverse of Madness (2.19). The latter could certainly be set up as a frontloaded summer kickoff, and Black Widow also had a premium streaming option on Disney+. But that doesn’t mean Marvel shouldn’t be concerned.
Right now they still have their fans, and Thor: Love and Thunder just had one of the 30 best openings in box office history. The only films to open over $140 million and not reach $300 million were two of the Twilight films. However, the next lowest-grossing films on that list are Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Spider-Man 3, two comic book sequels that also had the two lowest multiples in that company. Only 13 of the top 50 openers of all time managed the feat of grossing more than three times their opening weekend. 17 of them did not make 2.5x their opening. For Love and Thunder to be in that nice average sweet spot, it would need to end up making over $357 million. Are fans going to show the film that much love, or will they begin to bring the thunder down and try to hold their beloved franchise to a higher standard?
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
That big family film from last week continued to make money this week though not nearly as much. Minions: The Rise of Gru fell 57% in its second week down to $45.6 million. That brings its total to $210 million, the eighth-best for a July release after 10 days, ranking just behind its predecessor, Minions, which had $215.7 million. That film also had a $49.2 million second weekend, so The Rise of Gru is trending slightly below but still pretty close to the first film, which ultimately finished with $336 million. In other words, it’s very possible for this sequel to get itself over $320 million. Minions’ third weekend fell over 53%, and it was barely beaten by newcomer Pixels. The Rise of Gru’s third weekend will have a new animated challenger, but it may have a window to make up a little ground on the 2015 film.
The film of the year, Top Gun: Maverick, continues to go for the all-timers. James Cameron, Jesus Christ, and Tom Cruise now are amongst the best seventh weekends ever. Avatar ($31.2 million), Titanic ($25.9 million), Top Gun: Maverick ($15.5 million), The Passion of the Christ ($15.2 million), and Frozen ($14.7 million) are your top five now, with the Cruise sequel just days away from becoming the 13th film in history to gross $600 million in their initial domestic run. The Force Awakens, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Black Panther all grossed between $11-11.5 million in their seventh weekends. After 45 days, Maverick is about $28 million behind where Jurassic World was, but as the former hopes to break the $650 million barrier where the latter is currently the gatekeeper, its weekend was more than double what the dinosaurs gobbled up in their seventh frame. Globally with over $1.18 billion, Top Gun: Maverick is the 22nd highest-grossing film of all time, ahead now of the first Minions film.
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)
Audiences appear to enjoy musical biopics, and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is joining company with some of the best-grossing ones. This weekend puts its total past Rocketman, and it is lining up with another Vegas tale that opened in June 15 years ago. Ocean’s Thirteen grossed $11.4 million on its third weekend in 2007 and had $91.07 million in its pocket after 17 days. Elvis also earned another $11 million this weekend and sees its total at $91 million. The third Ocean’s film finished its run with $117 million. These numbers do not yet qualify as a success in the books, as the $85 million-budgeted film is going to need to see at least over $200 million worldwide to get the red out of all those ledgers. With the exception of Bohemian Rhapsody, none of the successful musical biopics scrounged up $100 million in overseas dollars, and Elvis has earned $46 million from those markets so far.
Universal owns the next two slots in the top 10 this week with a pair of very solid hits. The numbers for Jurassic World Dominion speak for themselves: another $8.4 million this week brings its total to $350 million, becoming the 60th film in history to do so. It is also just the 36th film to pull that off in its first 31 days, if the estimates hold, and it’s not far off from the numbers of Spider-Man: Far from Home, so a domestic total close to $390 million is still very possible, while it has grossed over $850 million worldwide. Also doing very well, especially for its small budget, is The Black Phone. $7.7 million this weekend brings its total to over $62 million with an eye on hitting over $80 million. On an $18 million budget, that film is already into profit.
(Photo by A24)
Disney may look back on this summer as a bit of disappointment, oddly enough. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness looks to be spending its 10th and final week in the top 10 with over $411 million domestic and over $953 million globally, though it lost the summer box office crown to Top Gun: Maverick (Thor: Love and Thunder is unlikely to reach either of those highs). And then there is poor Lightyear, down another 62% this weekend to $2.9 million. Its total of $112 million ensures that it will be the lowest showing for a Pixar film in the company’s history (not counting Onward’s shortened pandemic run.) It would be easy to dismiss Lightyear based purely on its box office success (or lack thereof), but in reality it actually still boasts the best Tomatometer score (75%) of any of Disney’s theatrical releases in 2022.
Scoring better than all of them, however, is A24’s gem in the top 10 this week. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On lost its perfect Tomatometer score, but it still holds an impressive 99%, and it finally made it into the top 10 in its third week of limited release. Adding another 26 theaters this week, the stop-motion animated hybrid grossed $340,000 to bring its total to $963,000. This is on pace and a bit better than the studio’s Oscar-winning Room, which ultimately finished with $14.6 million. Marcel moves into wider release this week and hopefully will find the audience it deserves. Of course, A24’s champion, Everything Everywhere All At Once, continues to hang around in its 16th week of release, just missing the top 10 in a remarkable run that has made it over $67 million. The studio can also shout that it has released three films (these two and Ti West’s X) that have rated 95% or better with critics this year.
(Photo by Michele K. Short/©Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Nothing is going to challenge Thor for a second straight week atop the box office next week, but it will be interesting to see if smaller-scale adult fare can find an audience. Sony will try with an adaptation of the best-selling murder mystery Where the Crawdads Sing, and Focus will attempt the same with Lesley Manville in Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris. Maybe adults will drop their kids off at the animated Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank and go check out one of them. Or maybe they will all go together when Marcel the Shell With Shoes On finally opens wide in their town.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]