Thor: Ragnarok' Hammers the Compeition for Disney's Marvel Studio

By Erich Schwartzel Features Dow Jones Newswires

"Thor: Ragnarok" thundered into theaters with a $121 million opening this weekend, breathing some life into a box-office market reeling from its worst October in a decade.

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"Ragnarok," now the 17th consecutive movie from Walt Disney Co.'s Marvel Studios to open at No. 1, has grossed $427 million globally, led by a $55.6 million debut in China.

"Ragnarok" is the third Thor movie since the original opened in 2011, and its opening this weekend is 41% higher than the 2011 debut of the series' second installment, "Thor: The Dark World."

Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as the God of Thunder in the movie, which also features Marvel characters Doctor Strange and the Incredible Hulk. That interweaving of characters is a central component of Marvel's strategy, which draws in moviegoers by appealing to fans of various characters and story lines.

"Introducing characters like the Incredible Hulk creates this feeling that [the movie] is bigger," said Dave Hollis, Disney's distribution chief.

It has also helped Marvel avoid the sequel fatigue that has led to disappointing openings in other franchise titles this year. The studio's "Guardians of the Galaxy" sequel this summer also outperformed its original installment.

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"Ragnarok's" gross benefited from playing on higher-priced IMAX Corp. screens, which have contributed $34 million to the movie's global tally.

The "Ragnarok" opening is welcome news for theater owners, who have weathered several flops this year and went into the weekend with an annual box office down 5% compared with last year.

Last month was the lowest-grossing October since 2007, due to misfires like "Blade Runner 2049" and "Geostorm." Several high-profile releases will follow "Ragnarok" and help recover some of this losses, including "Justice League" later this month and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" in December.

The weekend's other new release, "A Bad Moms Christmas" from STX Entertainment, was also a sequel, but it didn't match its predecessor's performance. The comedy fell a bit short of expectations with a $21.6 million debut since opening Wednesday.

That's a decent opening, given the movie's modest $28 million budget, but indicates the movie won't be the moneymaker that the original was. Last year's "Bad Moms," starring Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn as mothers who try to shake up their domestic life, was a breakout hit and ultimately collected $113 million.

In other box-office news, director Greta Gerwig's critically acclaimed "Lady Bird" made its debut in four theaters with the best limited opening of the year so far. "Lady Bird," starring Saoirse Ronan as a precocious and frustrated Sacramento teenager, collected $376,000 this weekend, for an average per-screen gross of $94,000.

Write to Erich Schwartzel at erich.schwartzel@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 05, 2017 13:28 ET (18:28 GMT)