Disney Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS fell back to earth in its second week, with a three-day gross of $61M. Even with the drop, it still far outpaced the competition to maintain its #1 spot on the box office charts. This was never in question since the only new wide release for the weekend was Universal’s sci-fi horror flick FIRESTARTER, which the studio also made available simultaneously on its Peacock streaming service.
DOCTOR STRANGE’s steep decline from its opening weekend was somewhat of a surprise, led by a precipitous drop of 81% from Friday last week to Friday this week. It finished the entire weekend down 67.4% from its opening three-day results. This represents the second-biggest second-weekend decline in history for a Disney/Marvel movie, behind only the 67.8% drop suffered by BLACK WIDOW last July. Famously, that steep drop led star Scarlett Johansson to file a lawsuit against Disney claiming that the studio had sabotaged the box office potential of the film by releasing it simultaneously to theatres and on Disney+.
This is the second Marvel-based title in a row to suffer a very steep box office decline in its second week. Sony’s much-maligned MORBIUS suffered a similar fate after its opening weekend that began on 4/1 was followed by a second weekend which was down 74%.
It is not uncommon for a blockbuster opening result to be followed by week two drops of 50%-60%. However, alarms go off when that number climbs towards 70%, indicating weak interest from the broader public. In some cases, bad word of mouth can poison the well of potential moviegoers who might otherwise have decided to give it a chance in week two and beyond. With MORBIUS, critics panned the picture by delivering a brutal 17% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While audiences were more charitable, giving it a 71% score, this is still a low grade for movies featuring Marvel characters.
DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS carries a much better RT critics score of 75% and an even better audience score of 87%. The reason for its second-week drop may only indicate that the fanboys who were really motivated to see it came out in huge numbers for last week’s early previews on Thursday and official opening day on Friday, which generated $90M. The film went on to an impressive $187M three-day gross. Given the front-loaded pattern for this picture, it may struggle to wind up with a 2X multiple of its opening weekend – which would be $374M – for its full run in theatres. Once again, this would be a historic low for a Disney/Marvel title whose titles most often wind up with 2.5X – 3.5X their opening weekend result.
This is not to say that any movie that reaches $375M in total domestic gross is a disappointment. Exhibitors would be thrilled with this result. Still, the huge drop from its opening weekend and a relatively low multiple for its total gross may represent a chink in the armor of the Disney/Marvel universe. Needless to say, we will monitor this trend closely when Disney/Marvel’s next theatrical release THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER opens on July 8th.
As indicated above, the sole new wide opening this weekend was Universal’s FIRESTARTER, and it only mustered $3.8M and a distant fourth-place finish. As a result of DOCTOR STRANGE’s decline, the weekend overall only earned $93M, which represents 55% of results from the same weekend in 2019.