Box office preview: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ could open with more than $150 million

Back in May, Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” kicked off the summer with the biggest opening of the year so far. Since then, it has grossed more than $400 million, while still being overshadowed by Paramount’s own sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which is nearing $600 million.

This weekend, Marvel is going to try to take back some of the box office attention from “Maverick” with “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the Taika Waititi-directed follow-up to his 2017 blockbuster, “Thor: Ragnarok.” Once again starring Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder with Tessa Thompson returning as Valkyrie, “Love and Thunder” is joined by the return of Natalie Portman’s Dr. Jane Foster and two more Oscar winners in Christian Bale, who plays the movie’s main antagonist, Gorr the God Butcher, and Russell Crowe. Read on for our box office preview.

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This isn’t Bale’s first foray into superheroics, as he famously played Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolan’s popular and very successful “Dark Knight” trilogy, which grossed $1.2 billion domestically and double that amount worldwide. Bale also starred as John Connor in 2009’s “Terminator: Salvation,” which tried but failed to revive the franchise kick-started by James Cameron. In between, Bale won an Oscar for David O. Russell’s “The Fighter,” made a second movie with Russell, and then teamed with Scott Cooper for a couple movies. The success of Oscar-nominated movies like “The Big Short,” “Vice” and “Ford v. Ferrari” could also point to Bale’s draw as a box office star.

In the meantime, Portman has been taking it fairly easy since 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World,” getting another Oscar nomination for playing Jacqueline Kennedy in 2016’s “Jackie,” journeying with Bale into Terrence Malick territory with 2015’s “Knight of Cups,” and starting a family. Crowe is the third Oscar winner in “Love and Thunder,” playing Zeus, leader of the Greek Gods, and someone the Thors turn to for help, only to find him to be quite incorrigible.

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Although Thor didn’t start out as Marvel Studios’ most popular hero, at least in terms of box office, the third movie (and first directed by Waititi) “Thor: Ragnarok” was released in November 2017 after receiving a 93% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (with a slightly lower audience score). It opened with $122.7 million, which was nearly $40 million more than “Thor: The Dark World” four years earlier. That opened roughly $20 million more than the original “Thor” opened with in May 2011, being the very first big screen appearance of Hemsworth in the role. “Thor: Ragnarok” also grossed more than all the previous films, both domestically ($315 million) and worldwide ($850.5 million).

It’s somewhat gratifying to see that each of the “Thor” movies opened higher and grossed more money than the prior movie, and “Love and Thunder” comes out after Thor played a huge part in Marvel’s record-setting “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame.” Those movies and the long time between movies probably helped “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” open much bigger than its predecessor, and presumably, “Love and Thunder” will be helped in the same way.

As of this writing, “Thor: Love and Thunder” has received 71% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is on par with “Multiverse of Madness,” although it’s well below the rating that “Ragnarok” got. The Doctor Strange sequel opened with $187.4 million, but it also benefitted from opening earlier in the season when there weren’t as many other movies taking up screens. That last fact might hinder “Love and Thunder” from matching it.

So far this year, five movies have opened with more than $100 million, with “Doctor Strange” being the only one to open north of $150 million. “Love and Thunder” should be the second one, making somewhere between $150 and $170 million this weekend for first place.

Check back on Sunday to see how “Thor: Love and Thunder” fared in the grand scheme of things.

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