Weekend Box Office: 'Thor: Ragnarok' Outwits Sequel Curse With $121M Debut
Sequel 'Bad Moms Christmas' isn't as lucky, while Greta Gerwig's 'Lady Bird' soars at the specialty box office; globally, 'Thor' amasses $427 million.
In an era when many tentpole franchise installments have stalled, director Taika Waitii's Thor: Ragnarok is wielding nothing short of a golden hammer at the box office for Disney and Marvel Studios.
Over the weekend, the threequel opened to $121 million from 4,080 theaters in North America, 41 percent ahead of 2013's Thor: The Dark World ($85.7 million), not accounting for inflation. Overseas, the event pic grossed $151.4 million in its second weekend for a foreign tally of $306 million and a worldwide haul of $427 million. Thor: Ragnarok's $55.6 million China debut is a record for the month of November, while Imax theaters delivered a whopping $25.4 million globally.
Thor: Ragnarok — with Chris Hemsworth returning in the titular role and Cate Blanchett introduced as Hela, the Asgardian goddess of death — helped restored luster to the domestic box office after a miserable October, posting the fourth-best opening of the year to date and besting every other 2017 superhero tentpole outside of fellow Marvel title Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which earned $146.5 million. (Spider-Man: Homecoming debuted to $117 million, while Wonder Woman launched to $103.3 million.)
The secret to the movie's success? Thor: Ragnarok was no doubt boosted by Waititi's fresh vision and by featuring other characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, namely The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who makes a cameo. It was the same strategy Marvel used in 2016 threequel Captain America: Civil War. And then there were Thor: Ragnarok's glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore. (It's the 13th consecutive MCU title to receive some variation of an A grade.)
"Because of the strength of the Marvel team, it affords the license to bring in storytellers that have the ability to infuse tone and style that keeps each of these films feeling unbelievably fresh," says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis. "The $13 billion grossed by the 17 MCU titles averages out to $800 million per film globally. Just as impressive, if not more, is the consistency from a quality standpoint."
Roughly 42 percent of global ticket sales came from 3D screens, mostly from overseas and including Imax cinemas. (In the U.S., half of all Imax shows were in 2D, per the exhibitor's new strategy.)
Still, not even the god of thunder could stop the slide at the fall box office, at least not entirely.
Year over year, weekend revenue was down more than 9 percent as A Bad Moms Christmas bowed behind expectations and a crop of holdovers continued to underwhelm.
R-rated comedy sequels are a tough business, and STXfilms' Bad Moms Christmas felt the pinch. The film, hampered by generally bad reviews and a B CinemaScore after deciding to open midweek, posted a weekend gross of $17 million and a five-day debut of $21.6 million. Pre-release tracking services had suggested the follow-up would open in the $25 million-$28 million range. Females made up 82 percent of ticket buyers, while 87 percent of the audience was over the age of 25.
The first Bad Moms pic, which nabbed an A CinemaScore, launched to $23.8 million in summer 2016. The holiday-themed sequel certainly isn't a financial bust, having cost a relatively modest $28 million to make, and STX insiders believe the film will have strong legs and note that any number of R-rated comedies have received a B CinemaScore. They also add that Bad Moms Christmas' opening wasn't as far behind the original's as other R-rated comedy sequels have been.
Overseas, Bad Moms Christmas opened to $7 million from its first 15 markets for an early global cume of $28.6 million. The pic came in ahead of the first film in several major markets including Australia ($3 million) and the U.K. ($2.4 million).
Bad Moms Christmas reunites Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn as they rebel against the pressure of creating the perfect holiday while having to deal with their own mothers, played by Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski and Susan Sarandon. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore returned to direct.
Among holdovers, George Clooney's ill-fated Suburbicon, starring Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, fell a steep 59 percent in its second weekend to $1.2 million for a domestic total of $5.1 million.
Elsewhere, a number of titles vying for awards attention opened in select theaters.
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird flew high, taking in $375,612 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles to score the year's top theater average to date ($93,903). The A24 dramedy boasts a perfect 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and stars Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet. The previous top average in 2017 belonged to The Big Sick ($84,315), and Lady Bird's average is the best since La La Land, which was released last December ($176,221).
Last Flag Flying, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne, likewise rolled out in four cinemas in N.Y. and L.A., grossing $42,000 for a screen average of $10,500. Amazon Studios partnered with Lionsgate on the dramedy's theatrical release.
LBJ, which opted for a much larger footprint, debuted to roughly $1 million from 659 theaters. Directed by Rob Reiner, the political biopic features Woody Harrelson as the titular president. Richard Jenkins, Bill Pullman and Jennifer Jason Leigh also star in the Electric Entertainment release.