Love and Thunder’ Lands Mighty $143 Million Debut

Disney’s “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the fourth standalone Marvel story about Chris Hemsworth’s hunky Asgardian superhero, hammered home a box office win with its $143 million debut.

The movie, which is playing in 4,375 North American theaters, arrived ever-so-slightly behind estimates of $150 million, but those opening weekend returns are unquestionably something to celebrate. Notably, “Thor 4” enjoyed a bigger start than its predecessor, 2017’s quirky action-comedy “Thor: Ragnarok,” which opened to $123 million in North America. “Love and Thunder” also notched the third-biggest opening weekend of the year behind “Jurassic World Dominion” ($145 million) and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($185 million).

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Movie theater owners are encouraged because “Love and Thunder” continues a strong summer movie season, which has generated $2.27 billion to date, according to Comscore. In a promising sign for the exhibition industry, those returns are 217% above the same point in 2021 and only 12% behind the same point in 2019.

At the international box office, “Love and Thunder” opened ahead of expectations with $159 million from 47 markets, pushing its global tally to a mighty $302 million. The film cost $250 million to produce and roughly $100 million to promote.

Opening weekend crowds for “Thor: Love and Thunder” were overwhelmingly male, with men representing 60% of ticket buyers. “Thor” also greatly benefitted from Imax, 3D and other premium formats, which accounted for 36% of global ticket sales. Imax alone brought in $23 million worldwide, including $13.8 million in North America.

Since the original “Thor,” which was released by Paramount, opened in 2011 with $65 million, the series has only grown in popularity over the past decade. But while Thor has become a fan favorite, the newest superhero adventure doesn’t have the multiversal component that fueled the massive turnout for “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” or “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which is why ticket sales did not reach those levels. Though the Guardians of the Galaxy briefly appear in “Love and Thunder,” the story is more of a one-off adventure in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe. In terms of opening weekend returns, “Thor 4” scored the 12th-biggest start in the 29 film franchise.

“Thor: Ragnarok” filmmaker Taika Waititi returned to direct “Love and Thunder,” which follows Hemsworth’s Norse god as he teams up with his former beau Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who now wields her own hammer as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark on a journey to defeat the galactic villain Gorr the God Butcher (a feeble-looking Christian Bale), who is hellbent on his plan to purge the universe of all things divine.

Critics and audience members did not like “Love and Thunder” as much as they adored the off-kilter “Ragnarok.” The newest installment has a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and a “B+” CinemaScore. By comparison, “Ragnarok” landed a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and an “A-” CinemaScore.”

In a distant second place, Universal and Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” earned $45.5 million between Friday and Sunday, falling 57% from its opening weekend. So far, the fifth entry in the animated “Despicable Me” franchise has grossed an impressive $210 million at the domestic box office and $399.8 million globally.

At No. 3, Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” stayed on course with another sizable turnout, even though the film has been playing in theaters for nearly two months. The blockbuster action sequel brought in $15.5 million from 3,513 cinemas in its seventh weekend of release, marking a 40% decline from its prior outing. Those ticket sales push the movie’s domestic tally to $597 million, a stone’s throw from becoming one of 12 movies ever to cross $600 million in North America.

Director Baz Luhrmann’s musical biopic “Elvis” landed in fourth place with $11 million from 3,714 venues, a 40% dip from last weekend. The kaleidoscopic Warner Bros. movie, which stars Austin Butler as the king of rock and roll, has been quietly chugging along at the box office, collecting a solid $91.1 million in North America to date.

Universal’s dino tentpole “Jurassic World Dominion” took the fifth slot, earning $8.4 million from 3,251 theaters in its fifth weekend on the big screen. With those returns, the sixth chapter in the “Jurassic” franchise has crossed $350 million at the domestic box office, a notable benchmark in pandemic times. The film’s predecessor, 2018’s “Fallen Kingdom,” ended its North American box office run with $417 million.

Elsewhere, A24’s feel-good film “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” continues to charm audiences, bringing in $340,000 from 48 theaters in its third weekend in limited release. The movie, about an inch-tall seashell (voiced by Jenny Slate), has generated $963,416 as it keeps slowly rolling out across the US

“Marcel the Shell” finished the weekend in eighth place, one spot ahead of “Mr. Malcolm’s List,” which was playing in 20 times as many theaters. Bleecker Street’s period drama stumbled to the No. 9 slot with $245,126 from 1,067 screens, bringing its two-week tally to a dismal $1.6 million.

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