LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Doctor Strange and his questionably effective book of spells has summoned a blockbuster US$185 million (S$257 million) at North American movie theaters over the weekend, reaffirming the box office dominance of Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe after a shakier, pandemic-battered year for the franchise.
The timeline-bending Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness represents a return to form for Disney's MCU after pandemic-era releases Black Widow (US$80 million debut, plus US$60 million on Disney Plus), Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings (US$75 million debut) and Eternals (US$71 million debut).
Due to the pandemic and other extenuating circumstances, those installments failed to live up to their franchise predecessors in terms of ticket sales.
Those box office returns mark the 11th biggest opening weekend in history. Given the anomaly of reaching those box office heights, the Doctor Strange sequel easily delivered the biggest opening weekend of 2022, as well as the second-biggest debut in Covid-19 times.
Prior to this weekend, The Batman stood as the year's biggest opening weekend with US$134 million. Spider-Man: No Way Home still ranks as the pandemic's biggest opening weekend (and the second-biggest ever) with US$260 million.
Overseas, the film earned US$265 million from 49 territories, taking the global total to US$450 million. Since the new Doctor Strange film is not likely to play in China, Russia or Ukraine, the film will rely on repeat viewings from audiences around the globe to push ticket sales past the coveted US$1 billion mark.
Only Spider-Man: No Way Home has been able to cross that threshold since Covid-19 took hold.
The Doctor Strange follow-up outgrossed its predecessor's entire opening weekend tally in a single day. The 2016 original ended its theatrical run with US$232 million domestically and US$677 million globally.
The new Doctor Strange movie, which sees lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch reprising his role, follows the titular character as he protects a teenager (played by Xochitl Gomez) capable of travelling the multiverse.