Thor: Love And Thunder Tops Box Office With $143 Million, Proves The MCU Is Cursed By Its Own Success

As has been the case for well over a decade now, it was a big weekend at the box office almost by default as we had a brand new Marvel Studios film in theaters in the form of "Thor: Love and Thunder." Unsurprisingly, the fourth film centered on Chris Hemsworth's God of Thunder overcame somewhat tepid reviews to not only top the box office, but set a new opening weekend record for the franchise. And yet, because the Marvel Cinematic Universe has set its own impossible standard of success that all of its films must now live up to, the conversation around the win feels a bit muted with an air of "maybe it could have/should have done better." Right or wrong, that's where we're at.

Meanwhile, "Minions: The Rise of Gru" continued to bring out the family crowd, "Elivs" and "Top Gun: Maverick" held like gangbusters, "The Black Phone" is about to cross a major milestone, and "Everything Everywhere All At Once" finally fell out of the top 10. Let's dive into the numbers, shall we?

Thor: Love and Thunder sets a franchise record

According to Box Office Mojo, "Thor: Love and Thunder" debuted to $143 million domestically over the weekend, which was, admittedly, on the slightly lower end of projections. It seems that those big Thursday night preview grosses were a bit front-loaded. Still, this means that director Taika Waititi's latest bested the opening weekend of "Thor: Ragnarok" ($122 million), and the strong early showing has pushed the solo "Thor" franchise well past the $2 billion mark worldwide. Even though the reviews have not exactly been glowing, this will go down as yet another absolute win for the MCU. Period.

To that end, the film brought in an additional $159 million internationally, giving it a $302 million global start. It ranks as one of the biggest opening weekends of the pandemic era and proves that Hemsworth's take on the Marvel hero still has a lot of juice more than a decade after he first picked up the hammer. Audiences also clearly were interested to see Natalie Portman's Jane Foster take up the mantle as the Mighty Thor. Not to mention the prospect of seeing Christian Bale as a villain, namely Gorr the God Butcher. Now, whether or not the somewhat unenthusiastic critical response and word of mouth (by the very high MCU standards) effects the second-weekend grosses remains to be seen. Even so, the MCU remains the most bulletproof franchise in all of entertainment for the time being.

The burden of success

Be that as it may, there is some unquantifiable sense that because "Love and Thunder" came in on the lower-end of projections, and perhaps because it didn't shatter any records, its success is less than impressive. I would contend that a movie making $302 million worldwide on opening weekend against lukewarm reviews, not to mention contending with the heavy competition down the charts, signals the complete opposite. The MCU has been such a success-generating machine that anything less than Earth-shattering success feels unimpressive. It's the burden that success brings.

More than anything, the fact that movies like "Captain Marvel" ($1.13 billion worldwide) and "Black Panther" ($1.33 billion worldwide) dramatically overperformed at the box office added to the perception that every single MCU movie should be able to rake in that kind of cash. It's simply not the case. Let us not forget that the first "Thor" was considered a big success back in 2011 by making $450 million worldwide. Oh, how the times have changed.

Who knows? Will the somewhat lackluster reviews for some of the films and shows in Phase 4 of the MCU hurt things in the long run? Maybe. But for now, these are still returns that every other studio would be deeply envious of, and that is worth remembering.

Minions: The Rise of Gru continues to rake it in

In other news, last week's big new release, "Minions: The Rise of Gru," fell to number two on the charts, but Universal's hit animated flick still took in $45.5 million, falling by 57.4%. Is that kind of a big drop? Yes. But it's not uncommon for family-friendly flicks to do that, and moreover, it held relatively well against the competition. The film is mere pennies away from crossing $400 million worldwide, and given its reported $80 million production budget, it can already be considered a hit. Plus, the "Despicable Me" franchise has now soared past the $4 billion mark overall. It's genuinely impressive stuff.

Given that "Lightyear" has petered out at the box office, bringing in just $2.9 million this week and falling all the way to number seven, "Minions" has a clear path to rake in the family movie money for the next handful of weeks. If it can stay on target, we could be looking at another $1 billion earner for 2022, joining "Top Gun: Maverick" and, possibly "Jurassic World Dominion," which now sits at $876.4 million after adding another $8.4 million this weekend. Of note: two of those films belong to Universal and one to Paramount. Disney, for once, is sitting it out atop the charts despite having some big wins this year.

And the Rest...

Speaking of "Top Gun: Maverick," Tom Cruise's sequel simply refuses to quit. The film came in at number three and added another $15.5 million to its ridiculous total: $597.4 million domestic, $1.18 worldwide. It will cross $600 million domestic perhaps by the end of this sentence and is pretty much a lock to finish the year as our top global grosser. Remarkable!

In other holdover news, Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis" continued to do well, coming in at number four with $11 million, falling just 40.4% in its third weekend. The biopic has amassed $155.1 million worldwide and will likely be in the Oscars conversation later this year. Warner Bros. has done well with this one, and it should easily see $200 million before all is said and done, if not more.

"The Black Phone" has continued to bring out horror fans for a non-franchise film, with director Scott Derrickson's film adding $7.6 million to its total. It will cross $100 million worldwide tomorrow against an $18 million budget. That is one hell of a nice return for Universal and Blumhouse.

In other news, after 16 weeks, "Everything Everywhere All At Once" finally fell out of the top 10 to the #11 spot with $240,000 this weekend. It sits at $93 million worldwide and continues to be one of the most encouraging, impressive success stories in recent memory. Good for you, A24.

This coming weekend figures to be an odd one, as we have not one but four new wide releases arriving with "Paws of Fury," "Where the Crawdads Sing," "The Deer King," and "Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris" all looking to find an audience. None of them figure to unseat "Thor" so it will be a fight for the silver medal.