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“Doctor Strange 2” collapses at the American box office: what future for the Marvel machine?

Despite a phenomenon already observed for “Black Widow” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, the reasons for the drop in attendance for “Doctor Strange 2” seem more worrying this time for Disney.

When he reached American cinemas on the 28thand MCU film, directed by Sam Raimi, arrives in a fairly uncompetitive landscape, mainly occupied by Fantastic Beasts 3 and sonic 2. David Yates’ film shows him timid figures for such a blockbuster, probably due to the rather mixed returns he faces across the Atlantic, while sonic 2despite its significant success in six weeks of operation, no longer benefits from the momentum of novelty.

Marvel Studios therefore sees a boulevard opening up for its new juggernaut, and is right: with 187 million dollars generated at the end of its first weekend of operation, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness realize the 11and best start of all time at the North American box office. But perhaps this new giga-hit is trying to cover up an annoying weakness for the big-eared studio.

A significant fall

From its second weekend of operation, Sam Raimi’s blockbuster recorded a spectacular drop of 67% in profitability, generating “only” 61 million dollars in three days, as reported Deadline. Another size indicator: with 16 million dollars in revenue collected on the second Friday (the day of release in the United States), Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness sees its performance on the first day in the room drop by 81%. To understand how these figures could become problematic for Disney, we must compare them to those of other recent feature films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while keeping in mind the context of their respective releases.

A result already achieved in other circumstances

Released during the Covid-19 pandemic both theatrically and on Disney+ in the US, Black Widow recorded just over $80 million for its first weekend of operation, before dropping 67.5% the following week. The highly anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home had meanwhile registered the phenomenal score of $260 million for its opening weekend, before also falling by 67.8% the following week.

But these drops in speed, all in all relative with regard to the stratospheric figures that we are talking about, were explained by particular calendar circumstances: the pandemic and the simultaneous release on Disney+ for Black Widowand the Christmas weekend, whose cinema attendance is historically low for Spiderman. The case of Doctor Strange 2 seems a priori different, like two other recent MCU films, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and The Eternalswhose drop in attendance was however more limited in the second weekend (-52% for Shang Chi and -61% for Chloé Zhao’s film).

Phase 4: a contrasting assessment?

Of the MCU’s latest movies, in what insiders are calling “Phase 4,” three are among the franchise’s five biggest drops after their second weekend in operation. A not insignificant balance sheet, which could be symptomatic of a beginning of breathlessness for the moment camouflaged by fine attendance figures. An extremely loyal and hardworking community remains, ensuring Disney has a comfortable base of admissions on every outing; but once she has seen the films, usually in the first week, the falls are impressive.

Mixed feedback, unmet expectations, timid word-of-mouth, few second viewings on the fan side… The reasons given by Deadline are multiple, but all seem to implicitly evoke the same thing: the MCU seems to create fewer new fans than before. In view of the disappointing final scores of films like The Eternals Where Shang Chi, these questions are worth asking. If converting fewer new followers still happens, Disney can’t afford to lose those already there.

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