In continuing positive signs for the post-pandemic box office, at least among the blockbuster class, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness opened with $185 million in North America this weekend, while netting $265 million everywhere else for a huge $450 million bow. And this is just the estimate on Sunday night, by Monday afternoon it could be higher. While signs indicate that lower budgeted films and those based on original ideas aren’t faring as well—Everything Everywhere All At Once is scraping its way to sleeper status, but the arrival of summer blockbusters means its run is nearly over—at least the blockbusters can still deliver and continue propping up theatrical distribution until someone figures out what the new release model is going to be.
This is also good news for Benedict Cumberbatch and Doctor Strange, the character, as he gets a classic post-Avengers bump, more than doubling Doctor Strange’s opening weekend in 2016. Madness will for sure surpass the grand total of the first film ($677 million), though I don’t know if it’s going to have the legs to join the billion-dollar club. Top Gun: Maverick arrives in three weeks, and now more than ever, blockbusters aren’t going to co-exist. Just as Madness put a dent in Everything Everywhere this weekend, on Memorial Day weekend, Top Gun is going to put a dent in Madness. It’s the way of the new world.
And frankly, Madness might not have the word of mouth needed to hit a billion. It earned a B+ CinemaScore from audiences, joining only Thor and Eternals as the MCU films to rate below the A tier.
We were in theaters to poll @DrStrange in the Multiverse of Madness tonight and audiences gave it a B+. Will you be catching this one? #CinemaScore pic.twitter.com/C0n1E1HWED— CinemaScore (@CinemaScore) May 7, 2022
As I always say, CinemaScore is not the be-all, end-all of a film’s reputation. But it is a temperature check of real people walking out of the theater on opening weekend, and a B+ equates to a mixed-positive reception. It means many people like the movie, but there is a not insignificant number of “meh” responses. It also means word of mouth is likely to be mixed, which might cool some people’s ardor to check the film out in its later weeks of release, especially now that we all know movies will be available to stream in three months. I honestly wonder if we’re going to see less billion-dollar films overall because of that, as even a hint of mediocrity might encourage people to wait and watch the movie at home.
Some of the mixed reaction to Madness might be the people incensed that Marvel made a movie that is even a little bit scary, and insisting it should be rated R. LOL please, grow up. Madness isn’t CLOSE to an R rating. But it’s true Madness isn’t for little kids, and even taking a 10-year-old might be pushing it. It IS scary in places. I have discussed before that Marvel doesn’t really make movies for kids, even though people take their kids to Marvel movies. And every once in a while, Marvel makes something that gets a rise out of kids and causes their parents to have to, you know, parent their kids. (The older I get, the more I wonder why some people even bother having children, it’s clear they don’t actually like them or take any interest in them as individuals.) All weekend, whenever I’ve heard someone bitch about Madness needing an R rating, all I’ve really heard is, “I had to talk to my child, and I don’t like that.” So, that’s probably some of the B+ rating, people reacting to Madness being a little bit different than other Marvel movies (even though it is still 100% the formula).
Anyway, it was a good weekend for Benny C all around, between Madness’s big opening and his stint hosting SNL for the second time. He did pretty well, he’s always game and that goes a long way with hosting. But this weekend, with everything that’s happening politically in the US, it was a big reminder that SNL is neither sharp enough to be the political humor voice we need, nor absurd enough to be the pure escape we could use. Kate McKinnon as Amy Coney Barrett on “Weekend Update” is about as good as political comedy gets on SNL, not because she’s doing a good character read on Coney Barrett, but because she projects such a clear sense of “Can you BELIEVE this sh-t” through her performance, but this is very basic, milquetoast stuff.
Amy Coney Barrett shares her thoughts on Roe v. Wade pic.twitter.com/busvbO6fEk— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) May 8, 2022
Don’t even get me started on the cold open, it was horrible, as they always have been since SNL decided the cold opens have to be topical. They’re so bad at it, I wish they would stop, but somehow, everyone there (Lorne Michaels) is convinced this is incisive topical comedy. It’s not, it never is. Honestly, they should have just showed the trial scene from The Last Duel, it’s WAY funnier and a much sharper observation on how little laws regarding women’s bodies and agency have changed since the Middle Ages. But again, that’s not on Benedict Cumberbatch, he showed up and played along and gave it his best, and it’s not his fault SNL sucks at political humor. The “New Toilet” sketch was solid, and a nice callback to “Koohl Toilet”. I hope he does a toilet commercial every time he hosts the show, that would be a great lowkey running gag.
Here is Cumberbatch with his wife, Sophie Hunter, at the airport, presumably returning home to the UK after his big weekend.