‘Doctor Strange 2’ Set to Kick Off Summer Box Office With Best Opening of 2022

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Here’s another signpost on the film industry’s road back to normal: The summer blockbuster season is back to kicking off with a huge Marvel movie on the first weekend of May with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

And just like the last film to feature Doctor Strange, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” this MCU entry arrives with the sky-high expectations one would expect from a pre-pandemic blockbuster. Projections currently have “Doctor Strange 2” earning a weekend of at least $160 million, with some analysts and rival distributors expecting a figure closer to $200 million.

Disney, as usual, is dampening expectations, projecting that the film will top the $134 million launch of “The Batman” to become the top opening of 2022 and the second highest since theaters reopened behind “No Way Home.” Such expectations are a far cry from the comparatively modest $85 million opening that the first “Doctor Strange” earned back in November 2016.

Naturally, that huge jump in box office fortunes is thanks to “No Way Home,” which sets up “Multiverse of Madness” thanks to Strange’s multiverse-shattering spell cast at the request of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. The new film sees Strange dealing with the repercussions of that spell as he struggles to protect America Chavez, a girl from another timeline who has the superpower to travel the multiverse.

But that’s not the only way that the MCU’s narrative web is boosting presales. “Doctor Strange 2” is also the follow-up to “WandaVision,” Marvel Studios’ first and most successful Disney+ series. With immense social media buzz following every new episode and nearly two dozen Emmy nominations, “WandaVision” was arguably the one Marvel title in 2021 that could hold a candle to “No Way Home” in terms of pop culture impact.

As the film that promises to pay off the narrative hooks placed at the end of both of these predecessors, “Doctor Strange 2” is looking to double or even triple the opening of the first “Doctor Strange.” If it does, get ready for similar box office payoffs for future films that build off Disney+ shows like “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Loki” and the upcoming “Ms. Marvel” — elevating next year’s “The Marvels” and the next “Captain America” film above the $150 million mark.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” kicks off a May release slate that also includes Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” 20th Century’s “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” and the industry’s great white hope for senior turnout, Focus’ “Downton Abbey: The New Era.”

These films probably won’t be enough to get monthly grosses back to pre-pandemic levels — the lowest May total in the last decade was $835 million in 2017 — but the box office should finish significantly higher than the $217 million grossed last year during the early stages of the theatrical rebuilding process.

The increased turnout should also help build momentum for the second half of the year as moviegoers will see trailers for both summer blockbusters like “Jurassic World: Dominion” and holiday offerings like “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which will have its first teaser released exclusively this weekend in front of “Doctor Strange 2.”