The timeline-bending "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" is benefitting as the follow-up film to Sony's box office behemoth "Spider-Man: No Way Home," which became a must-see movie event.

Benedict Cumberbatch's film represents a return to form for Disney's MCU after Covid-era releases
Benedict Cumberbatch's film represents a return to form for Disney's MCU after Covid-era releases "Black Widow," "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" and "Eternals." (AFP)

The summer movie season is off to a blockbuster start thanks to “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness."

The superhero extravaganza grossed an estimated $185 million in ticket sales in its first weekend in US and Canadian theatres, the Walt Disney Co. said on Sunday.

It is the biggest opener of the year—ahead of “The Batman’s” $134 million—and the sixth biggest of all time globally. It more than doubled the opening of the first “Doctor Strange,” which opened to $85 million in 2016.

And it is also the second biggest of the pandemicbehind “Spider-Man: Far From Home’s” $260.1 millionreaffirming the dominance of Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe after a pandemic-battered year for the franchise.

Internationally, it is doing even better with an estimated $265 million since opening on Wednesday. In total, “Doctor Strange 2” has already made $450 million.

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Summer blockbuster

Spider-Man is at least partially to thank for the massive debut.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s powerful sorcerer appeared prominently in “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, which has become the third biggest movie of all time since opening in December.

"Doctor Strange 2” picks up several months after the events of “No Way Home,” and brings in Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff, who became even more popular thanks to the recent Disney+ series “WandaVision.”

The film also has a gigantic footprint. It's playing in 4,534 theatres in the US and Canada alone, which according to Disney is the seventh widest opening ever. 

“Summer blockbuster season is off to a roaring start with ‘Doctor Strange'—an excellent sign for the phenomenal slate ahead,” Rich Gelfond, the CEO of IMAX, said in a statement.

Sam Raimi stepped up to direct “Multiverse of Madness,” which reportedly cost around $200 million to make—though that number doesn’t account for the millions spent on marketing and promotion.

Over the weekend, the film has trended on social media for everything from its many cameos to a spirited debate over its PG-13 rating and whether or not the horror elements warranted something more restrictive.

“This is a total win for the industry for whom the last two summers almost didn’t exist in terms of box office,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. 

There was little left for other movies playing in theatres. Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s “The Bad Guys” fell to second place in its third weekend with an estimated $9.8 million. 

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” from Paramount, landed in third with $6.2 million. “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” took fourth with $3.9 million, bringing its domestic total to $86 million.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies