Box Office: 'Doctor Strange 2' debuts to heroic $185 million

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Los Angeles, May 9 (BNA): Doctor Strange and his questionably effective book of spells has summoned a blockbuster $185 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 COVID-era releases "Black Widow" ($80 million debut, plus $60 million on Disney Plus), "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" ($75 million debut), and "Eternals" ($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, Reuters reported.

Those box office returns mark the 11th biggest opening weekend in history. Given the anomaly of reaching those box office heights, "Doctor Strange 2" 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 $134 million. "Spider-Man: No Way Home" still ranks as the pandemic's biggest opening weekend (and the second-biggest ever) with $260 million.

Overseas, the film earned $265 million from 49 territories, taking the global total to $450 million. Since "Doctor Strange 2" 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 $1 billion mark. Only "Spider-Man: No Way Home" has been able to cross that threshold since COVID took hold.

At the domestic box office, "Doctor Strange" follow-up outgrossed its predecessor's entire opening weekend tally in a single day. "Doctor Strange 2" raked in $90 million on Friday alone, while the 2016 adventure "Doctor Strange" brought in $85 million between Friday and Sunday. Marvel and other major franchise films tend to be front-loaded in terms of ticket sales because fans want to be among the first to see the movie -- lest spoilers appear online and ruin the fun. Still, the sequel will quickly blow past the final box office tally of the original "Doctor Strange," which ended its theatrical run with $232 million domestically and $677 million globally.