‘Thor: Love & Thunder’ To Strike Lightning At The Box Office
After the box office fireworks of the long 4th of July weekend, the streak should continue this weekend with the latest from Hollywood’s biggest moneymaker, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor: Love and Thunder is the 29th entry in the MCU and the fourth standalone film for the Norse-inspired superhero. With the film certain to top $100 million in its opening weekend, this will be the first time since June 2018 that two weekends in a row had new releases debuting in the nine figures, following last weekend’s $107 million three-day gross for Minions: The Rise of Gru.

The new Thor film sees Thor (Chris Hemsworth) take on the villain Gorr, the God Butcher (Christian Bale), with the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (voiced by Taika Waititi, who is back in the director’s chair), and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who has become The Mighty Thor (and whose relationship with Thor may or may not put the “Love” in “Love and Thunder”). While the story, which takes place after Avengers: Endgame, is largely standalone from other MCU titles, the Guardians of the Galaxy show up for the sort of franchise synergy that fans have come to expect. The film is getting a 4,300 theatre debut, and previews begin at 3pm Thursday, as has become the norm for big films.

We’ve seen the box office grow with each Thor film, andThor: Ragnarok’s $123 million opening, $315 million domestic total, and $854 worldwide cume are all series’ bests. Love and Thunder looks to top its predecessor’s opening (though not the last MCU film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ $187 million bow), but whether it will continue the trend and put the hammer to Ragnarok’s overall box-office records is too early to say. Considering the strong performance of Doctor Strange 2 ($411 million domestic, $953 million worldwide) as well as the massive success of the post-Ragnarok, pre-pandemic MCU titles (five of the six crossed $1 billion worldwide) and Spider-Man: No Way Home, we could see new box-office highs for the God of Thunder. Though China is likely out of play this time around after contributing $112 million to Ragnarok’s global cume, many recent releases showed that the lack of a China release is no impediment to a massive global box office. Other than China, the film is opening in much of the world day and date, though Russia is also a non-entity, and France will have to wait until next weekend for Bastille Day.

Crossing the billion dollar milestone, or at least Thor: Ragnarok’s global cume, will require strong word of mouth, as we saw with Ragnarok, which received an A CinemaScore (compared to B+ for Thor, an MCU low until Eternals, and A- for Thor: The Dark World). The reviews for Love and Thunder are positive but much more mixed than the last installment (69% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 93% for Ragnarok, while the first film scored 77% and the follow-up 66%). Of course, the audience opinion may diverge from critics, as we saw recently with Jurassic World Dominion. Disney is expecting the film to play long, and it has the advantage of being the last of the summer’s major tentpoles.

Nothing has dared to open in the shadow of the MCU behemoth, but thankfully there are a slew of returning champions which should continue their strong box office runs. Second place will go to Minions: The Rise of Gru, which is running neck-and-neck with Minions for the title of the biggest film in the Despicable Me/Minions series. While its $107 million three-day opening puts it behind the first Minions’ $116 million opening, the $125 million four-day weekend (the biggest four-day Independence Day cume ever) narrowed the gap. Its first Tuesday gross was also ahead of Minions with $17.5 million compared to $16.8 million, and as of Tuesday Minions 2 is at $140.6 million compared to the first film’s $145.5 million five day cume. Minions, which received the same A CinemaScore as its follow-up, dropped 57% for a $49.3 million second weekend, and it went on to gross $336 million domestically and $1.159 billion worldwide. Even if the pace begins to flag for Minions 2, there’s still little doubt that the box office for family films has finally returned to its former glories.

As for the summer’s biggest phenomenon, Top Gun: Maverick is at $575 million as of Tuesday and will cross $600 million this weekend or early in the week. At this point it's simply a question of where in the top ten of the all-time domestic box office it will end up. It is all but guaranteed that Tom Cruise’s biggest hit will fly past the tenth and ninth places, held by Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi ($620 million) and The Avengers ($623 million) in the coming weeks. Beyond that, it is likely to pass Jurassic World in eighth place ($653 million) and Titanic in seventh ($659 million), though whether it can pass the current sixth (Avengers: Infinity War with $679 million) and fifth places (Black Panther with $700 million) is a tougher call.

While it’s a steep climb, if Maverick keeps up with its magnificent holds we could see it crack the top five. A comp for how it plays from here on out is Spider-Man: No Way Home, which made its spectacular ascent up the all-time charts last winter/spring and added $84 million to its cume after its sixth weekend. Though Top Gun 2 faces more competition, it has been holding better than the post-pandemic box office champion and has also out-grossed it in four of its five post-opening weekends. For their fourth, fifth, and sixth weekends, Top Gun 2 was ahead of No Way Home by around 37%, 48%, and 85% respectively, averaging at 57%. If Top: Gun Maverick were to continue to run 57% ahead of No Way Home from this point on, that would give Maverick an additional $127 million after its 40th day, putting its total at $702 million, which would be around $2 million ahead of Black Panther. While the actual box office will have its own trajectory beyond what rough projections can predict, it is clear there is a plausible path to the film making the top five.