‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Hits Theaters With a Thunderclap


LOS ANGELES — After a four-month absence from theaters, Walt Disney Studios returned over the weekend, releasing “Thor: Ragnarok” to blockbuster results and teaching rival studios a lesson about how to approach sequels to sequels.

“Thor: Ragnarok,” the latest film from Disney-owned Marvel Studios, took in an estimated $121 million on 4,080 screens in North America over the weekend. That total was colossal even by superhero standards — about 42 percent higher than opening-weekend results for “Doctor Strange,” released last fall, and 3 percent higher than what “Spider-Man: Homecoming” initially managed over the summer.

Directed by Taika Waititi, an eccentric New Zealand filmmaker whose previous three movies played in art houses and collected a grand total of $9.5 million, “Thor: Ragnarok” has taken in an additional $306 million overseas, Disney said on Sunday. The film, starring Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett, cost an estimated $180 million to make, not including at least $100 million in marketing costs.

Interest in “Thor: Ragnarok” has been sizzling since Disney released a teaser trailer in April. In early September, an informal moviegoer poll conducted by Fandango, the online ticket seller, found that Mr. Waititi’s film was the most anticipated offering of the fall — a surprise to Hollywood, which had expected “Justice League,” produced by Warner Bros. and set for Nov. 17 release, to easily dominate. (It was second.)

At first, few had been crying out for another Thor sequel. Marvel’s second stand-alone film about the character, “Thor: The Dark World,” took in $645 million worldwide in 2013. But critics were lukewarm, the production had been marked by behind-the-scenes creative clashes and one star, Natalie Portman, did not want to return.

Taika Waititi, the director of “Thor: Ragnarok,” at an advance screening in New York last month.CreditJamie Mccarthy/Getty Images

Instead of taking the usual route with third chapters in successful Hollywood franchises — Who cares about making a good movie? Take the money and run! — Marvel’s movie chief, Kevin Feige, decided to radically retool the Thor series. With input from Mr. Hemsworth, “Thor: Ragnarok” became less self-serious and much more comedic, leaning into the absurdity of the main character, a beefcake god who carries a magic hammer and travels by rainbow.

Ms. Blanchett was cast as a campy villain, Hela, who sprouts antlers when she’s mad. And Mr. Waititi was allowed to run wild, backing outer-space action sequences involving a marauding Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) with “Immigrant Song,” Led Zeppelin’s heavy-metal anthem from 1970.

Most critics responded with euphoric reviews. Ticket buyers gave “Thor: Ragnarok” an A grade in CinemaScore exit polls.

Second place for the weekend went to the sequel “A Bad Moms Christmas,” which took in about $17 million, for a total since arriving on Wednesday of $21.6 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. An R-rated comedy from STXfilms, “A Bad Moms Christmas” received weaker reviews than its series predecessor, “Bad Moms,” which took in $30.6 million over its first five days in summer 2016.

“A Bad Moms Christmas” received a B grade in CinemaScore exit polls. The first movie, which became an unexpected hit, got an A.

STXfilms, a division of STX Entertainment, spent a modest $28 million to produce “A Bad Moms Christmas” and backed its release with marketing stunts, including a takeover of the daytime game show “The Price is Right.” The studio noted that the holiday film took in an additional $6.7 million in partial release overseas, with initial results in countries like Britain and Australia higher than for “Bad Moms.”



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