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This Thursday night finds the domestic release of Marvel and Walt Disney’s Thor Ragnarok . The well-reviewed film earned a whopping $109 million overseas last week, including $6m in IMAX and a decent occupancy rate for 4DX auditoriums in South Korea (54% occupied), Australia (89%) and Croatia (79%), Domestic opening weekend predictions in North America range anywhere from $95 to $125m, with smart money betting on a nine-digit figure.
Thor Ragnarok movie will, of course, be facing off against Justice League just two weeks after its domestic debut.
I’ve argued that it’s understandable to think that both movies will flourish concurrently, like Sony’s Skyfall and Lionsgate/Summit’s Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II in 2012 or Disney’s Doctor Strange and WB’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2016. But Thor 3 has one advantage over Man of Steel 3 since they both stake their claims for box office success. No, it’s not would-be quality (I have not seen the Zack Snyder film and will go into every detail of it as optimistic as I was seeing Man of Steel 3.5 years ago) or even expectations (Justice League is more important to DC Films than Thor Ragnarok is to the MCU). No, the thing that might cause Thor: Ragnarok to score a super-duper colossal opening this weekend is that it is the first live-action kid-friendly biggie in four months.
Sony’s Spider-Man Homecoming was a big hit for any number of reasons, such as IP value, good reviews and the overall strength of the comic book superhero sub-genre. But one thing that helped the film, especially after the opening weekend and the second-weekend tumble, was that it was almost entirely unique unto itself as a significant live-action movie that qualified as kid-friendly. After STX and EuropaCorp’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets stiffed in North America in mid-July, the Jon Watts-directed Spidey adventure had the field to itself.
It was followed by four months of R-rated movies (Girls Trip, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, It, Atomic Blonde, Kingsman, Detroit, mother!, American Assassin, The Foreigner, Blade Runner 2049,… for instance,) as well as adult-skewing PG-13 films (Dunkirk, Kidnap, The Dark Tower, Home Again, The Mountain Between Us,…) and kid-oriented cartoons (My Little Pony, The Emoji Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie.) If you’re a kid who loves seeing live-action flicks but can’t see R-rated fare, the closest thing you’ve had to a kid-friendly movie since July would be Happy Death Day.
It’s not only that Thor Ragnarok movie is a popular sequel of a popular series in a famous cinematic universe, or even that it has earned good critics and features crowd-pleasing actors and characters. All of those advantages, reviews pending, perhaps apply to Warner Bros. and Time Warner Inc.’s Justice League as well. But the Chris Hemsworth/Cate Blanchett/Mark Ruffalo/Tessa Thompson/Tom Hiddleston/Jeff Goldblum fantasy will also be the end of a four-month fasting period for those parents who have actually wanted something aside from toons to take their kids to see in a movie theater.
It has been an oddly adult-friendly end-of-summer/beginning of Fall period. Sony and Marvel’s Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and Zendaya’s high school comedy benefited big time from the lack of kid-friendly features through its $334 million+ (even more than Guardians of the Galaxy) domestic run. And at this point, at least in the first portion of its domestic performance, so too shall Thor Ragnarok movie. It had two weeks before Justice League comes to down and 2.5 weeks until Pixar’s Coco makes Thanksgiving a veritable feast of kid-friendly fare. I don’t think Murder on the Orient Express is going to pose much of a problem in this arena.
So if Thor Ragnarok movie opens at the top-tier of anticipations, this will be one huge reason as to why. Indeed, people are excited about the third Thor entry, and yes there is a very long history of big films breaking out in the first weekend of November. But beyond all of those factors, parents will be thrilled just to have something, anything, that they can take their kids to watch in a box office instead of animated flicks and “borderline inappropriate” (yes, every kid is different, and I don’t judge) PG-13 or R-rated features. When you give starving moviegoers a delicious entrée, they tend to scarf it down and ask for more. Here’s hoping Justice League (and Coco) will benefit from kids and their parents asking for more.