‘Doctor Strange 2’ To Continue To Reign, Efron Led ‘Firestarter’ Unlikely To Spark
After dominating the box office last weekend with 84% of the entire weekend’s gross, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will remain the major story in its second frame. The Marvel Cinematic Universe film, which opened to $187 million, crossed $200 million on Monday (not to mention $500 million worldwide on Tuesday), and it is on the verge of besting the first Doctor Strange’s $233 million domestic cume. By the end of the weekend it should be past or very close to $300 million, with its next milestone being the $369 million gross of The Batman, the biggest thus far this year and the second biggest since the start of the pandemic.

Where it goes from there is the question. Doctor Strange 2 opened within spitting distance of Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191 million opening, $459 million cume) and Captain America: Civil War ($179 million opening, $408 million cume), and we may not know for another week or two whether its final gross will end up closer to the former or the latter. However, this weekend should give us a good sense of whether it will fall short or if it has enough gas to become the tenth MCU film to gross over $400 million.

While that milestone is likely for Multiverse of Madness based on the comps (no MCU film to open above $150 million has failed to cross $400 million), the B+ CinemaScore makes it the rare Marvel film to fall below the “A”-range, suggesting it may not have the legs we expect from the franchise. On the other hand, that could be balanced out by the lack of competition this weekend and next. The weekday grosses so far don’t suggest the film is more front-loaded than average for an MCU release, and its $13.6 million Monday gross is right in line with the first Mondays of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. Those films held steady on their first Tuesdays while Doctor Strange 2 fell to $12.6 million on Tuesday, but it isn’t a large enough drop to draw any conclusions. Age of Ultron and Civil War both had second weekend drops of around 59.5%, and a similar drop would put Doctor Strange 2 at roughly $76 million.

Even with a solid hold from Multiverse of Madness, this weekend may fall short of $100 million, and that is after what was just the second $200+ million opening since 2019 (for comparison’s sake, 2019 had six weekends above $200 million and only four weekends below $100 million, while sub-$100 million weekends are now the norm). Whether or not the weekend can stay above that line may depend on its sole wide release newcomer, the Stephen King adaptation Firestarter which stars Zac Efron.

Universal is the only studio that has dared to go wide with a new release in the wake of the latest Marvel blockbuster, but they aren’t fully committing to the theatrical marketplace as Firestarter will also be releasing on their streaming platform Peacock. The supernatural horror film, which is co-produced by Blumhouse, is about a young girl with untamed pyrokinetic powers who gets pursued by a government agency while her father (Efron) tries to protect her. Keith Thomas directs after previously working with Blumhouse on the critically acclaimed The Vigil. Reviews for Firestarter have yet to come in, and the film seems unlikely to make a spark at the box office.

In limited release (and also receiving a day and date digital release) is On the Count of Three from United Artists Releasing. The dark comedy stars Jerrod Carmichael (who also directs) and Christopher Abbott as best friends with a suicide pact who are looking to make the most of their final day. Tiffany Haddish, J. B. Smoove, and Henry Winkler co-star. The film premiered at Sundance in 2021 and has won critics over (87% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Opening in New York and Los Angeles from Sony Pictures Classics is Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story. The concert documentary which celebrates New Orleans’ culture is at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Getting a good sized expansion this weekend is the aptly timed abortion-themed drama Happening from IFC, opening in 100+ cities after its NY & LA debut last weekend with an $8.3k theater average. The French film won the Golden Lion at Venice last fall and also has a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes.