All cards on the table: I didn’t actually set out to write this article. Oh, Doctor Strange, the 14th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is making a lot of money? Fantastic, but what else is new? Ever since Iron Man debuted in 2008, Marvel Studios has built up the most consistently bankable brand in film history. At this point, their movies all practically print their own money, and it was pretty apparent last week that Doctor Strange is one of the bigger money-printing machines in the studio’s history. Since then, it has simply sold thousands more tickets while notching one of the best second weekend holds in MCU history (Iron Man’s was slightly better). What more can be added to the story at his point?
Yet an hour ago I opened the Word document I used to create the charts for my last Doctor Strange box office article, looking to use them as a template for something else I am working on. However, before I knew it I was updating the charts with Doctor Strange‘s current numbers, the box office nerd in me apparently unable to resist seeing if anything had changed. Frankly, nothing really has. After 10 days of domestic release, 17 days worldwide, Doctor Strange‘s box office totals are still superior to those of most other MCU movies at the same point in their release cycle.
Except, of course, that’s a totally misleading chart. I looked up each movie’s 10-day domestic and 17-day foreign totals, and added them together to get a 17-day worldwide total. I did this because Doctor Strange actually came out overseas a week earlier than it did in the States and Canada and has thus now been out overseas for 17 days. Plus, with films of this scale devoting too much time to talking about the domestic performance is missing half the story. So, I am less interested in how Doctor Strange‘s domestic total compares to the other MCU films than I am in seeing how it’s stacking up at the worldwide box office.
But it’s not really fair to add up the totals like that because not every MCU film actually followed the same overseas-first-for-one-week-before-hitting-domestic-shores release pattern as Doctor Strange. In fact, Hulk, Iron Man, First Avenger, Guardians and Ant-Man all followed a simultaneous worldwide release strategy, i.e., the old-fashioned approach of coming out both domestically and overseas over the same weekend. As such, let’s pull those films out, and see what the chart looks like now:
If I was looking at that chart I’d want to know if those international numbers include China, and they do except for Thor, which was never actually released in China, and Age of Ultron, which didn’t come out in China until 18 days after its worldwide debut. Other than that, these films, including Doctor Strange, all played overseas markets like the UK for one week before hitting China and other new foreign markets in their second week, coinciding with their domestic debut. And after 17 days of global release this is where they all stood, with any of the Avengers or post-Avengers movies starring Robert Downey, Jr. well on their way to crossing $1 billion worldwide and Doctor Strange seemingly poised to challenge Guardians of the Galaxy (which ended with $773m worldwide) for the title of highest grossing non-sequel in MCU history. The challenge for Strange going forward will be not fading completely away in the face of Fantastic Beasts, Moana and the other big movies on the horizon.
Of course, one must make the mandatory reference to ticket price inflation as well as the way Strange uniquely appeals to 3D and IMAX …and I just did. Not to sweep all of that under the rug, but, um, here’s me sweeping it under the rug because it’s not really the focus of this article.
As I cynically argued in the open, these Marvel movies print money, and there is seemingly nothing overly out of the ordinary about yet another Marvel movie doing the Marvel movie thing at the box office. However, it’s worth remembering we are just a year and a half removed from Ant-Man, one of the lowest-grossing Marvel films of all time, and mere months removed from Civil War, which by “merely” grossing $1.15 billion this summer (well short of studio top earners Iron Man 3, Age of Ultron and Avengers) triggered plenty of thinkpieces questioning if the shine was finally starting to come off the Marvel ball, even if just a little. Moreover, there’s no telling how much longer Thor, Captain America and the rest of the original Avengers will be around. The studio’s future is staked in a very real way to all of the newbies we met in Civil War (e.g., Black Panther, Spider-Man) as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy and now, thanks to this box office, Doctor Strange.
This whole thing started with Tony Stark, and now its future will likely involve plenty of the man I’ve probably unfairly written off as “Tony Stark with magic.” Right now, if you go by box office alone the Sorceror Supreme is proving to be just the change of pace the MCU and, by extension, the comic book movie genre needed. Any kind of official announcement of a Doctor Strange 2 must be a mere formality at this point because if Ant-Man can get a sequel Doctor Strange sure as heck can too.
Source: All numbers from BoxOfficeMojo