Weekend Box Office Forecast: Thor: Love and Thunder Looks to Strike with $135M+ Domestic Debut (Updated w/ $29M Preview Analysis)

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios & Disney ("Thor: Love and Thunder")

Friday Update: Disney reports this morning that Thor: Love and Thunder posted $29 million from domestic previews beginning at 3pm on Thursday.

That’s the second largest preview haul of 2022 behind only Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($36 million), the fifth highest for the MCU (behind Endgame, No Way Home, Infinity War, and Multiverse), and tied for the 13th largest in history with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Extrapolations from there, as always, aren’t apples-to-apples, with earlier preview showtimes and greater audience awareness being a factor as mentioned below. Still, past Marvel summer openers give some indication as to weekend playability and current models continue to indicate a weekend tally within the final $135 – 165 million forecast range and potentially close to the $154 million pinpoint target.

Internationally, the film reached a total of $48.6 million on Friday as it opened in an additional 25 markets yesterday. Disney estimates the first two days lead Thor: Ragnarok by 45 percent and trail Multiverse of Madness by 36 percent on a like-for-like basis. Key figures include $5.3 million from Australia, $4.8 million from Korea, $3.8 million from the United Kingdom, $3.7 million from Mexico, and $3.0 million from India, among others.

The studio will provide a full global update later this weekend.

Wednesday Report: Following Minions: The Rise of Gru‘s Fourth of July box office over-performance, Thor: Love and Thunder is set to help deliver the domestic box office a first in the pandemic era: back-to-back weekends with $100 million-plus openers.

As the second Marvel Cinematic Universe release of three planned for 2022, Love and Thunder is also setting itself up as the final four-quadrant tentpole of summer before a slew of other films will aim to keep the season’s momentum rolling in the aggregate.

Although initial long range projections were slightly more bullish, the fourth Thor film is currently tracking ahead of its character-specific predecessor, Ragnarok, which debuted to $122.7 million in November 2017. Metrics have recently pegged it closer to the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($146.5 million in May 2017) and Captain Marvel ($153.4 million in March 2019).

Marvel films are often predictable in their pre-release windows, though there is something to be said for each film’s varying appeal. As a comedy-driven spectacle with a lead character boasting slightly stronger female appeal than recent MCU chapters, Love and Thunder has a fair shot to be less front-loaded than this past May’s horror-centric Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in terms of pre-sale demand. The latter drew 38 percent women on opening weekend, compared to Ragnarok‘s 44 percent.

The aforementioned Guardians and Thor sequels, as well as fellow July releases Ant-Man and the Wasp and Spider-Man: Homecoming landed in that lighthearted category as well. This consideration is doubled down by the fact that Thor enters a more crowded market than pandemic era Marvel films, so casual moviegoers might favor purchasing tickets later in the opening corridor, if not translating to organic walk-up sales this weekend.

Still, pandemic era previews have become more front-loaded in general thanks to earlier start times and increased consumer awareness. That’s a factor weighing on Love and Thunder with its 3pm local start times as nationwide preview trends are currently on course for somewhere between $23 million and $28 million as of early Wednesday.

Another element that could impact those projections in the final hours before release: reviews. Though some films are largely audience-proof, this Thor‘s Rotten Tomatoes score sits at 71 percent from 157 critics at the time of writing — notably down from Ragnarok‘s 93 percent, which also boasts an 87 percent audience score.

Whether or not this film can overcome critical reception more easily than Madness did in May, or Eternals last November, may play a role in the weekend ahead.

Beyond previews, it’s expected that Love and Thunder will play audience friendly in a way that the Doctor Strange sequel didn’t quite capture without enough family appeal. The film generally faces only counter-programmers in the weeks ahead and has the heart of summer weekdays in its arsenal, so a higher multiple isn’t just possible, but somewhat likely.

Another sentiment among the more casual MCU fans may carry some weight as well: the direction of Phase Four.

While Spider-Man: No Way Home was a major exception as trilogy-capper, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings drew excellent word of mouth as an origin story, there’s a growing anxiousness for the franchise to dive more deeply into the major overarching stories promised to carry the post-Infinity Saga era.

While this isn’t a major concern by any means yet, and COVID-related delays have surely played a role to some extent, fan enthusiasm for feature film plot elements like the multiverse (introduced one year ago in Disney+’s Loki) and other forward-looking story progressions remains somewhat under-tapped and is starting to boil as it’s now been more than three years since the last major storyline(s) wrapped with Avengers: Endgame.

On the holdover front, the Minions prequel/sequel will take a hit from the loss of IMAX and other premium formats to the Thor behemoth while also coming off a weekend inflated at both ends with early Thursday previews and a pre-holiday boosted Sunday. Still, the Illumination animation is an unquestionable success with space to leg out in the weeks ahead even with some competition on deck by the end of the month.

Due to the holiday, exhibitors are still finalizing location counts and showtimes later than usual, so those projections are not yet currently available in the forecast below.

Weekend Ranges

Thor: Love and Thunder
Opening Weekend Range: $135 – 165 million

Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections

Current projection ranges call for a 22 to 37 percent increase for this weekend from last weekend’s $188.5 million three-day top ten aggregate.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, July 10 Location Count Projection (as of Wed) % Change from Last Wknd (3-Day)
Thor: Love and Thunder Disney & Marvel Studios $154,000,000 $154,000,000 ~4,300 NEW
Minions: The Rise of Gru Universal & Illumination Animation $44,000,000 $206,500,000   -59%
Top Gun: Maverick Paramount Pictures $18,800,000 $601,800,000   -27%
Elvis Warner Bros. $13,000,000 $93,200,000   -29%
Jurassic World Dominion Universal Pictures $9,000,000 $351,000,000   -45%
The Black Phone Universal Pictures $7,100,000 $62,400,000   -42%
Lightyear Disney & Pixar $3,600,000 $113,000,000   -44%
Mr. Malcolm’s List Bleecker Street $475,000 $1,700,000 ~1,384 -41%
Everything Everywhere All at Once A24        
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On A24        

*All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studiosThe above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios & Disney ("Thor: Love and Thunder")

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