Doctor Strange 2 Reigns Supreme At The Box Office, Firestarter Flames Out

This was one of those weekends at the box office where everything seemed pre-determined on some level. "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" was absolutely going to come out on top following its gigantic opening the previous weekend. "Firestarter" never stood a chance and, on that level, it perhaps seemed unexciting as there wasn't going to be any drama in terms of how things shook out. However, reading between the lines, we might be starting to see some cracks in Marvel's armor and that is worth looking at. No to mention the increasingly complicated nature of Stephen King's name as a viable blockbuster brand. Let's dig into the numbers, shall we?

Doctor Strange remains Supreme, with a caveat

As mentioned, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" sailed to an easy win this weekend with a $61 million haul, according to Box Office Mojo. As good as that is, it represents a 67.5% drop compared to last week's gigantic $187.4 million opening. And therein lies the real story. Yes, Marvel clearly remains damn near bulletproof at the box office and yes, with $688 million already in the bank worldwide (surpassing the original's total take), we're likely looking at a $1 billion-plus finish for director Sam Raimi's MCU sequel. But that drop can very much be viewed as a bad omen.

That ties with "Spider-Man: No Way Home" (67.5% drop) and trails only "Black Widow" (67.8% drop) for the biggest second-weekend drops in MCU history. It's also not far behind "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which suffered a 69.1% drop back in 2016 in its second weekend. And we all know how that played out. Now, in the case of "No Way Home," that second weekend was contending with the Christmas holiday, as well as a fall from a record-breaking $260 million high. The drop becomes far less concerning when it was front-loaded, especially when your second weekend total over a holiday is still nearly $85 million. With "Black Widow," the movie ended up being released on Disney+ Premier Access while it hit theaters, which almost certainly accounts for the big drop. "Doctor Strange 2," meanwhile? The obvious culprit is less reassuring.

The movie has been met with reasonably good reviews but it carries a B Cinemascore, which is not great, especially since it's one of the worst for an MCU movie ever. There was no major competition this weekend, save for "Firestarter" which, as we'll discuss, did next to no business and wasn't really a factor. That leaves us to believe that word of mouth is not nearly as strong for this film as it has been for many other Marvel films over the last decade. Between "Multiverse of Madness," "Eternals," and the response to some of the recent Disney+ shows, we may truly be seeing the first signs of Marvel Studios struggling just a tiny bit under the weight of its own success. This is worth thinking about as we await the arrival of films like "Thor: Love and Thunder" and "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" later this year.

Firestarter flames out

In other not-so-great news, the new adaptation of Stephen King's "Firestarter," which served as the weekend's big new release, performed quite poorly in its opening frame, taking in just $3.8 million on more than 3,400 screens, good enough for a fourth-place finish. That is, to say the very least of it, not what Universal Pictures had in mind when they lined this one up. So, why the flame out for this $12-million budgeted sci-fi/horror flick? The first and most obvious culprit is bad reviews, with the film currently boasting a terrible 13% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, to go with a very poor 49% audience rating. That doesn't help anyone's case ever.

The other obvious thing to point to is the fact that the movie was also released on Peacock on the same day as its theatrical opening, meaning that consumers had a streaming option. Now, this didn't seem to hurt "Halloween Kills" ($131 million worldwide) as much, but that was a sequel to a gigantic hit within a very popular franchise. And I still suspect it would have made a decent chunk of extra change had it not been available on Peacock. With "Firestarter," it seems like the brass at Universal lost faith in the film and hedged their bets. Luckily, the budget is reasonable enough that even with poor returns at the box office, between that and what value it brings to Peacock could be enough to justify the expense. At least we got some sweet new John Carpenter music out of the deal.

And the rest...

In good news for Universal, the animated flick "The Bad Guys" once again finished in the number two spot with $6.89 million, which now puts its worldwide total at $165.5 million after four weeks. That's not too bad and, if it can let out to $200 million, that plus an expected decent haul on VOD could make this a nice little hit for the studio. Coming in at number three was, once again, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," which added another $4.5 million to its growing total. The video game adaptation now sits at $355.2 million worldwide after six weeks, with damn near an even 50/50 split between domestic and international audiences. A solid result for Paramount, no question.

A24's critical darling "Everything Everywhere All At Once" rounded out the top five with $3.3 million, dropping a mere 6.4% compared to last weekend. This movie simply won't quit and, very soon, it is going to become the highest-grossing movie ever at the domestic box office for A24, as it currently sits at $47.1 million. This is a downright miracle at this point and it will be amazing to see just how high it can fly in the end – especially if it ends up in the awards season conversation later this year.

Looking ahead, this weekend will see the arrival of "Downton Abbey: A New Era," as well as director Alex Garland's latest "Men," providing a bit more competition for "Multiverse of Madness" before "Top Gun: Maverick" swoops in to totally steal its thunder.