Weekend Box Office (7/10/22) Thor opens with Solid opening weekend, but Lackluster Word of Mouth – Cause for Concern?

Most franchises would be thrilled to have a comedy-sequel earn mixed-positive reviews, and open 17% bigger than it’s predecessor. But with mixed critical and audience reactions, why did the film not earn the positivity that was expected?

This new Thor movie was my most anticipated sequel of the summer, given how much the last film Thor: Ragnarok was such a fun comic book blockbuster, and showed there was still life to find in this franchise. That film opened with $123 million in 2017, with fans loving it in context of how its story took place in preparation before the new Avengers. 

Now it’s 2022, and Thor 4 Love and Thunder opened to $143 million this past weekend, a bit below the optimistic projections from Disney (expecting $150-170 million), but still, a 17% higher debut than Ragnarok is fine.

It’s the third biggest opening of the year, and for what is considered ”just” a Thor sequel, with little feeling of “you gotta see this immediately”, Love and Thunder opened about in line with what it expected to this weekend.  

However, there are possible signs of peril going on. The film pulled lousy reviews for a Marvel comedy (69% Rotten Tomatoes) but it’s the weak audience reactions (B+ CinemaScore) that scare me. 

That’s one of the worst audience reactions for a MCU movie. It’s one thing when a polarizing space odyssey like Eternals earns a B, or a horror fantasy like Doctor Strange 2 earns a B+, as those genres were seen as somewhat “experiments” for Marvel. But Thor is a “generic” crowd pleasing superhero comedy, so its weak reaction is a bad sign. 

It’s been years after the “Infinity Saga” of Marvel ended with Avengers: Endgame in 2019, where we used to grade each film on a curve as part of a grander achievement in storytelling. Now in 2022 as the MCU begins to lack focus or direction with each project in an ongoing narrative, are audiences beginning to become harsher and more discerning? 

Is it due to the director Taika Waititi’s absurdist sense of humor? Maybe not every joke is landing.

Is Marvel overextending itself in pumping out too many movies and Disney+ series? Do we blame the pandemic feature production rush here? 2022 alone has 4 Marvel movies and 5 Disney+ shows.

Thor: Love and Thunder is another wake-up call to the MCU development department. If films become too cookie-cutter, ticket sales will decline.

PostTrak, which tracks general audiences seeing the film, has Thor at 3 1/2 stars with a 77% positive, not far from Eternals’ 75%. Kids are ONLY making up 4% of the audience, which is terribly small, given the film’s narrative about saving Asgard’s children. 

See the proportion of ages and genders as % of the audience:

Men Over age 25Women Over age 25 Men Under age 25Women Under age 25
33% 25% 25% 17%

The most encouraging score for Thor: Love and Thunder is coming from women over 25 at 82% positive, who could be really connecting to Jane Foster’s Cancer storyline and arc in this movie.

On the bright side, 53% of those who saw Thor: Love and Thunder bought their tickets the day they saw the movie. To me that indicates a lot of people are seeing the movie when they can, with high “walk-up” business and legs for the rest of summer. The film also earned stellar business overseas, earning $302 million Worldwide.

I’m still expecting a BIG significant 2nd-weekend-drop next week (-65% or more), than it should level out throughout July and August, given the lack of *big* family friendly competition besides DC’s Super Pets until Black Adam in October. 

Either way, theater owners aren’t complaining, as the Box Office overall has reached pre-pandemic levels! The overall marketplace is around $236 Million, above the same post-4th-of-July weekend in 2019 with $183 million where SpiderMan far From Home was #1. But it’s not just superhero movies helping theaters, thanks to 3 other movies also grossing above $10 million this weekend.

Minions: Rise of Gru earned another $45.5 million (-57%), with $210 million so far, and the potential to end with $325-335 million in the U.S. On an $80 million budget, this Minions sequel / Despicable Me prequel is already a hit at $400 million Worldwide, even it’s still performing better in America than overseas.

The #GentleMinions trend likely helped last weekend, and is still assisting the generational nostalgia present here. Expecting Despicable Me 4 in 2024. 

Top Gun: Maverick is nearing $1.2 billion worldwide, as the $170-million-budgeted legacy Sequel, earned another $15.5 million in its 7th weekend, -40%, the first “normal” drop in its entire run. 

Still with another $15 million, that’s the third biggest 7th weekend ever behind Titanic ($26 million) and Avatar ($31 million). Still expecting to end with over $700 million in the U.S. Wow!

Elvis earned another $11 million (-40%) in weekend three for a $91.122 million 17-day cume. With word that the Baz Luhrmann-directed rock-n-roll biopic will NOT be heading to HBO Max after 45 days, it should continue to hold along Top Gun for the rest of summer as “event movies for older adults”.

This is a great win for Warner Brothers, whose Elvis could end with around $130-140 million domestic, and maybe some Oscar nominations.

Universal’s Jurassic World Dominion earned $8.41 million (-49%) with a  $350 million 31-day U.S. cume. The $185-million-budgeted Dino finale will arrive on “rent it for $20” PVOD this coming Thursday. Still, history shows that shouldn’t hurt the theatrical run much. 

We’re still looking at an over/under $370 million domestic end, and a global total of over/under $925 million.

Universal and Blumhouse’s The Black Phone earned $7.66 million (-37%) for a terrific $62 million domestic and $99 million worldwide so far. This one might drop on PVOD this coming Thursday, but the $19-million-budgeted crowd-pleaser has had solid legs for an original, R-rated thriller. 

Walt Disney’s Lightyear earned $2.9 million (-55%) in weekend four for a miserable $112.2 million domestic and $202 million global cume. Those who blame its LGBT content should look at those Thor 4 and Jurassic World 3 grosses. The sci-fi actioner/Toy Story spinoff should remain the lowest Pixar grosser ever.

At this point, Disney is now becoming even more financially reliant on Marvel / Avatar / Star Wars projects, but that’s a conversation for another day.

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