Marvel and Walt Disney’s Thor: Love and Thunder got off to a, uh, thunderous start at the domestic box office, pulling down $29 million in Thursday previews. That’s the second-best preview gross of the year behind the $36 million preview haul for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. That Sam Raimi-directed MCU sequel captured $90 million on Friday (including the Thursday previews) for a $187 million Fri-Sun domestic debut. If Taika Waititi’s Thor 4 plays likewise, we can expect a $73 million Friday and a $151 million opening weekend. While the mixed (for Marvel) reviews (69% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and (thus far) word of mouth may make the opening even more frontloaded, that would slightly surprise me.
The mixed word (including the notion that it’s an inessential MCU chapter) combined with the Disney+ factor (it’ll probably be “free” on that service after the first 45 days) may hurt post-debut legs. However, I’m guessing those who were excited to see it before the reviews dropped will still sample it over the weekend. Online chatter has arguably inflated the perception of negativity (even speaking as someone who didn’t like it). We’re still dealing with a popular franchise sequel averaging “three stars” among the current critical consensus. Thor: Love and Thunder, which stars Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson, is the last new four-quadrant, live-action kid-friendly offering between now and Dwayne Johnson’s DC Films flick Black Adam on October 21.
A Thursday-to-weekend multiplier like Doctor Strange 2, The Dark Knight Rises ($160 million from a $30.5 million Thursday-at-midnight gross in July 2012) and Spider-Man: No Way Home ($260 million/$50 million in 2021) gets Thor: Love and Thunder to over/under $155 million for the weekend. Legs closer to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ($177 million/$40 million in 2019), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II ($141 million/$30 million in 2012) or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($169 million/$43 million in 2011) gets it to between $115 million and $135 million. However, legs like The Batman ($134 million/$22 million in 2022) or Black Widow ($80 million/$13 million in 2021) gets Thor 4 to a rock-solid over/under $175 million weekend gross.
Thor: Ragnarök opened with $123 million in November 2017, back before folks inexplicably expected every MCU movie to shatter all related box office records, and even a jump on par with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($146 million from $94 million) would get Thor 4 to $191 million, essentially tied with Doctor Strange 2’s best-case-scenario opening weekend. A jump on par with Iron Man 3 ($174 million from $128 million) gets it to $167 million, while a jump on par with Ant-Man and the Wasp (from $58 million seven years ago to $75 million four years ago) still gets it to $159 million. We should not automatically expect $175-$200 million opening weekends for every MCU standalone just because Black Panther did so in early 2018.
Just because Black Panther and Captain Marvel became Marvel’s first two non-Tony Stark $1 billion grossers doesn’t mean they all will. Doctor Strange 2’s $950 million gross (sans Russia and China) is still Marvel’s biggest no-Iron Man/Spider-Man grosser. Even a $715 million finish for Love and Thunder (tied with Ragnarok without China’s $112 million gross and Russia’s $24 million total) would be fine. That’s especially true if general moviegoers like it more than the critics and/or the perpetually online. Either way, like I said with Eternals (which I disliked) and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (which I enjoyed), Marvel must barrel through with at least some variety in terms of its movies, even if some of them are less crowd-pleasing or universally acclaimed.