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Box Office: ‘Doctor Strange 2’ Reigns Again as ‘Firestarter’ Dies Down

LOS ANGELES, May 15 (Variety.com) — “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is again the No. 1 film at the national box office.

In its second weekend of release, the latest installment in Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe collected $61 million from 4,534 North American theaters. Ticket sales are down 67% from its opening weekend, marking a steeper drop compared to recent Marvel movies like “Eternals” (which was down 61% in its second weekend) and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (which dropped 52% in its second weekend). However, this significant drop is not surprising since “Doctor Strange 2” just had the 11th biggest opening weekend in history with $187 million. After 10 days on the big screen, the standalone superhero adventure has grossed $291 million in North America.

At the international box office, the sequel “Strange” earned $83.5 million in 49 markets. In total, the film earned $688.1 million worldwide.

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When Disney releases a Marvel movie in theaters, rival studios tend to shy away from opening new films — or risk being crushed in its wake. Over the weekend, two movies opened nationwide with disappointing results. Universal’s disturbing remake of Stephen King’s “Firestarter” fizzled with $3.8 million from 2,412 screens while simultaneously landing on Peacock; and Roadside Attractions’ religious comedy “Family Camp” grossed a meager $1.4 million from 854 venues. None of these films were particularly expensive to produce, which means it might not be nightmarish to make these films turn a profit, but it’s certainly not the kind of currency that studios hope to generate when they put a new movie in theaters across the country.

“Firestarter” was marked by negative reviews and poor word-of-mouth. The film, about a girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers, nabbed 12% on Rotten Tomatoes and a “C-” CinemaScore from moviegoers. These low numbers suggest that the few people who saw the movie this weekend won’t be rushing home to tell their friends to watch it in theaters. The most shocking aspect of “Firestarter” is that “High School Musical” heartthrob Zac Efron is officially old enough to play a father on the big screen. And yet, that was not enough to attract the public.

How bad were the opening weekend ticket sales for “Firestarter”? To put them into perspective, the original 1984 film, starring Drew Barrymore, had a bigger start — not adjusted for inflation — grossing $4.7 million from 1,356 theaters. The latest “Firestarter” may get a boost on Peacock, the NBCUniversal-owned streaming service, but the company didn’t provide streaming metrics.

David A. Gross, who runs film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, believes ticket sales have been flattened because the film is already available at home.

“‘Firestarter’ has a lot of production pedigree; Blumhouse and Stephen King are consistent hitmakers,” Gross says. But, he adds, “having the film available for streaming at the same time as it’s in theaters reinforces that it’s not must-have big-screen entertainment.”

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