Walt Disney and Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder opened atop the domestic box office with $69.5 million on Friday. That’s 48% better than the $47 million opening day of Thor: Ragnarök, which itself went on to capture a $123 million Fri-Sun debut in November of 2017. Thor 3 earned $14.5 million via Thursday previews, giving it a $32.5 million “pure Friday” gross. Thor 4 made $29 million in preview showings (with shows starting as early as 3:00 pm), giving it a “pure Friday” gross of $40.14 million. Since the early July MCU movies seem to have weirdly frontloaded opening weekends, we’re looking at a domestic debut between $140 million (if it legs like Black Widow) and $155 million (if it legs like Spider-Man: Homecoming). It will likely end up over/under Jurassic World Dominion’s $145 million launch.
That $69 million Friday is the second-biggest day of the year behind Doctor Strange 2’s $91 million opening Friday, while that presumed $143 million launch will be right between The Batman ($134 million) and Jurassic World Dominion ($145 million) as the year’s third-biggest opening weekend. It would also be the smallest jump for a non-Avengers MCU sequel (+16%) compared to its predecessor. Yes, we can credit mediocre (for Marvel) reviews (69% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes is above only Thor: The Dark World, The Incredible Hulk and Eternals) and less overwhelmingly positive buzz (including a B+ from Cinemascore). This was the first MCU franchise to get a “part four,” and even with the Ragnarök team returning (director Taika Waititi, Tessa Thompson, etc.), it didn’t have the “gotta see it right now” impact of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
That’s normal for Marvel, as the summer kick-off movies (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Infinity War) tend to open much bigger but are usually less leggy than the mid-summer offerings (Ant-Man, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp). The ridiculous overperformances of Black Panther ($700 million off a $242 million Fri-Mon debut in 2018) and Captain Marvel ($427 million off a $155 million opening weekend in 2019) did not represent the new normal for non-Avengers (and non-Spider-Man) MCU solo flicks. Even Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was sold as a glorified sequel to Avengers: Endgame and the first mythology episode since 2019 with implicitly promised multiverse cameos. Thor: Love and Thunder was very obviously “just a Thor sequel” only on par with the last Thor sequel.
In terms of “What’s new?” variables, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster returning to the MCU as “Mighty Thor” arguably counts as a new factor, while Christian Bale playing Gorr the God Butcher and Russell Crowe cameoing as Zeus surely applies. Still, this is the fourth solo Thor flick and eighth major MCU appearance for Chris Hemsworth’s title hero since 2011. That Thor: Ragnarök was hailed as a proverbial franchise savior after Thor: The Dark World while (relatively speaking) Love & Thunder is being compared to Batman & Robin won’t help the post-release narrative. That only matters if the general audiences agree with the critics and the perpetually online. Remember, it wasn’t Ain’t It Cool News that killed Batman & Robin 25 years ago; it was the paying audience (a $43 million opening and then a 64% second-weekend drop).
Even with an opening likely below the $150-$170 million re-release projections, it still should be on par with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which opened with $56 million on Friday (from a $17 million Thursday preview gross) and nabbed $146 million over the weekend. Offhand, Suicide Squad opened with $133 million and dropped 67% in weekend two but rebounded as the summer’s last biggie. It legged out to $325 million or about tied with Thor: Ragnarök’s $315 million domestic total. I’d expect a similar performance since the last few mid-July MCU movies (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Black Widow) dropped hard in weekend two. Still, two of the three (Spider-Man grossed $334 million from a $117 million debut while Ant-Man 2 earned $216 million from a $75 million launch) leveled out.
Like we saw in 2017 (where Spider-Man: Homecoming was the last viable live-action family biggie until Ragnarok in November), Thor 4 is the last big kids-targeted live-action newbie until Black Adam on October 21. Black Widow earned 2.29x its $80 million opening weekend for a $183 million total last summer (not counting the Disney+ Premier Access availability), but that would still put Thor: Love and Thunder over $331 million domestic. Conversely, a run like The Batman ($370 million from a $134 million launch) would give Thor 4 a $400 million cume. That would be pretty close to Doctor Strange 2’s $410 million finish. The lack of kid-friendly live-action competition (alongside Universal’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, Paramount’s Paws of Fury and Warner Bros. Discovery’s DC League of Super-Pets) will counteract the lesser reviews and colder buzz.
The “on Disney+ in 1.5 months” variable may become a deciding factor for those on the fence and/or those otherwise considering a repeat viewing. Even if it frontloads like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($410 million/$187 million) or Captain America: Civil War ($409 million/$179 million), we’d still be talking a $315-$330 million domestic finish. Would that be lower than hoped? Perhaps, especially as I’d argue Marvel wanted a Thor 4 precisely because it seemed like a safe solo outing for an established “Infinity Saga” hero whose previous film was popular even among those not 104% infatuated with the MCU. But that’s a conversation only if the movie just dive-bombs after Friday and/or doesn’t leg out into August. The MCU is the only franchise about which I must “explain” a $69 million opening day.