“Thor: Love and Thunder” is rocking the box office

Thor stole all the box office thunder this weekend, solidifying another blockbuster performance for Marvel Studios, which continues to be the highly profitable creative engine of The Walt Disney Co.

Thor: Love and Thunder is the 29th feature film to be produced by Marvel Studios since its acquisition by Disney in 2009. The visually dazzling special effects bustle and pay homage to the hair metal excess of the 1980s, complete with a Guns ‘n’ Roses soundtrack grossed $143 million in North America and $159 million internationally this weekend, Disney said.

The yield makes it the third-highest gross opening weekend since theaters reopened after the pandemic, after two other Marvel-produced films, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This weekend, Thor snagged first place at the box office in Minions: The Rise of Gru, an animated feature from NBCUniversal and Illumination Entertainment that was boosted by viral marketing from fans on social media.

Over the past 13 years, Marvel Studios’ releases, led by titles related to the intergalactic superhero team The Avengers, have grossed more than $26 billion, far more than any other single studio. Kevin Feige, the comic book superfan-turned-president of Marvel Studios, is widely regarded in Hollywood as one of Disney’s most indispensable executives — some Disney insiders cite him as the company’s second most important employee after CEO Bob Chapek.

Actor Chris Hemsworth, the title character in Thor: Love and Thunder, is featured on a movie poster.


Photo:

Disney/Everett Collection

Thor follows the adventures of the hammer-wielding Norse demigod who first appeared in comic book form in the 1960s and is the first Marvel character to earn four individual theatrical titles. (Iron Man and Captain America have three each, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange have two each so far).

Disney hailed Thor: Love and Thunder — which stars longtime Marvel stars Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman and introduces Christian Bale to the franchise as supervillain Gorr the God Butcher — as particularly impressive because it doesn’t cross-promote a received free series on the Disney+ streaming service, as was the case with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The latest Thor film in its opening weekend performed 16% domestically and 20% internationally better than the previous film about the hero, Thor: Ragnarok, which was released in 2017.

“This performance, surpassing pre-pandemic levels, is quite remarkable,” said Tony Chambers, Disney’s head of worldwide theatrical distribution. “‘Thor’ is quite a film in its own right.”

‘Thor: Love And Thunder’ director Taika Waititi, actors Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson at a panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego.


Photo:

Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

Marvel’s previous blockbuster, the Doctor Strange sequel, had a storyline that intersected with characters and plots from the Disney+ series WandaVision, and benefited from the title character’s involvement in the Spider-Man storyline. It kicked off a strong summer film season with a domestic starting price of US$187 million and resulted in a worldwide grossing of US$961 million.

Thor: Love and Thunder is directed and co-written by Taika Waititi, a New Zealand-born director known for his witty, sardonic approach to heavily themed films, including Thor: Ragnarok and the Holocaust tragicomedy Jojo Rabbit “. ”

In Love and Thunder, members of the superhero squad Guardians of the Galaxy join forces with Thor, played by Mr. Hemsworth, to battle Gorr while Thor explores his romantic feelings for Ms. Portman’s Jane Foster character, a human , navigates scientists and Thor’s former girlfriend who is suffering from cancer.

“It has been said that Marvel is trying to make films in different genres. ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ would be the comedy and morphs beautifully into a film about sacrifice and love,” said Jason Squire, a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, who counts Mr. Feige among his alumni. “Movies have always been escapists, and every Marvel film offers a fun escape from the headlines and disruptions of the day.”

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Marvel films are especially important to Disney because the company integrates them into its product range, including theme park rides, immersive entertainment experiences, streaming platforms, and merchandise collections that allow the company to repeatedly monetize its titles.

Thor and other members of The Avengers, the team of peacekeeping superheroes, have produced some of Disney’s biggest hits, including the highest-grossing film in history, Avengers: Endgame.

A Black Panther sequel will be out later this year, while next year’s slate includes an Ant-Man film and a Captain Marvel sequel only tangentially linked to the Avengers.

Elsewhere in Hollywood, the new “Minions” film grossed $45.5 million domestically, a strong second-weekend showing of the animated film, while “Top Gun: Maverick” grossed $15.5 million at the box office, according to the box office third place fell tracker Comscore.

write to Robbie Whelan at robbie.whelan@wsj.com

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