By Tim Briody
November 5, 2017
The box office has been fumbling through most of the last few months, waiting impatiently for this moment when we got back to the superhero movies. With one major and one minor exception, the box office has been on a three-month long losing streak, full of middling performances and disappointments. That streak ends now.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which consistently turns even the B- and C-list players into A-list box office performances, released the 17th official film in the series in the form of Thor: Ragnarok. This is the third time around for Thor, four years after The Dark World opened on this weekend and six years after Thor launched in May of 2011.
Generally, the MCU films have not only been blockbuster hits, but also played well with critics, with many scoring in the 80% and 90% at Rotten Tomatoes. The Thor films have been the exception, with the first Thor coming in at 77% and The Dark World being the “worst” reviewed MCU entry at 66%. Ragnarok, on the other hand, came in with rave reviews and scored 93%, just behind the first Iron Man movie. For most of this week, it was the best reviewed Marvel movie of all time until some late naysayers came in. What changed here? Well, for one, they added Hulk to this one, rather than attempt another standalone film with him. And they also embraced the ridiculousness of it all and brought the funny. New Zealand director Taiki Waititi (best known for working with the Flight of the Conchords and the indie comedy What We Do In the Shadows) delivered a film that sets the standard for future MCU entries.
Thor: Ragnarok was easily the top film on the weekend, coming in with an impressive $121 million, good for the fourth best opening weekend of 2017 (and 30th all time, for those still keeping track of that sort of thing). What’s even more impressive here is 2013’s The Dark World opened to $85.7 million (and the 2011 original opened with $65.7 million), meaning they’ve been able to continue to grow the audience as all of the superhero franchises continue to roll along and age. This shouldn’t really be happening, not to this extent at least. Granted, there are a couple of other factors at play here; since The Dark World, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has appeared in another Avengers movie (and a mid-credits scene in last year’s Doctor Strange), the dearth of quality releases at the box office (which I think also attributed to It’s ridiculous opening back in September), and the rave reviews.
Ragnarok launched Friday with $46.8 million, and $14.5 million of that coming via Thursday night showings, signaling a big weekend was in the works. In what’s definitely shaping up to be a big month, Thor’s got the advantage of coming first, as the DC Extended Universe tries their version of The Avengers in a couple of weeks with Justice League. With the success of Wonder Woman earlier this year, there are now heightened expectations for that one. The MCU itself returns in February with Black Panther, which I also expect to be huge. Not quite Ragnarok huge, but huge for February. The Dark World earned $206.3 million domestically in 2013 and Ragnarok is already over halfway there. It’s far too soon to tell where it will end up, but pushing $300 million certainly isn’t out of the question.
Opening on Wednesday, we have our first salvo of holiday themed movies this year, and this one was a sequel. A Bad Moms Christmas is the follow-up to last year’s successful Bad Moms, which earned $113 million on a reported budget of just $20 million, so you knew it was coming. Bringing back the titular moms in Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn, this one brings in their own mothers in the form of Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranksi and Susan Sarandon respectively. A Bad Moms Christmas earned $21.5 million in its five day opening, and $17 million on the weekend proper. The bad news here is Bad Moms opened to $23.8 million in July 2016. The good news here is that with a Christmas theme, the sequel has the chance to leg it out over the next several weeks to reach a respectable total. But more bad news, as it might have opened a couple of weekends too early to really take advantage of the holiday box office money train. It might get a bit of a bump around Thanksgiving, but expecting it to hang around until mid-December is not very likely. Perhaps it was better saved as counter programming for Justice League.