LOS ANGELES -- Doctor Strange and his multiverse got to linger a little longer atop the weekend box office as Tom Cruise and “Top Gun” wait in the wings.
Marvel's “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” was the top-earning film of the weekend for the third straight week, bringing in $31.6 million in 4,534 North American theaters, according to studio estimates released Sunday.
“Downton Abbey: A New Era” made a strong opening showing for Focus Features with $16 million from 3,820 theaters, but there has been no real blockbuster competition for “Doctor Strange."
"This film has had a pretty wide open marketplace," said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “This weekend really is, this is the proverbial calm before the storm.”
That storm will come in the form of the long-awaited, and long-delayed, release of “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel that arrives next week on Memorial Day weekend, 36 years after the original smash hit and cultural landmark.
It flies in amid sky-high hype.
“The marketing for this movie has really been going on for about three years." Dergarabedian said. "That’s a pretty long runway to guild up excitement.”
Cruise had the film festival in Cannes, France, abuzz on Wednesday with a whirlwind appearance for the film's European premiere that included a fly over of French fighter jets and an honorary Palme d’Or award.
“Top Gun” represents two seemingly fading phenomena — the major movie star and the big-screen-only experience, for which Cruise has been a tireless ambassador. And the industry is hoping they will help bring a more familiar summer for theaters.
“This is going to be one of the most important Memorial Day weekends ever, considering what the stakes are,” Dergarabedian said. “We didn’t have a traditional summer movie season for two years.”
Before the pandemic, the summer box office season generally brought in more than $4 billion annually. After an essentially non-existent 2020, the 2021 take, in a year of recovery, was $1.75 billion. This year's crop of films, which also includes “Jurassic World Dominion” and “Thor: Love and Thunder,” could double that, Dergarabedian said.
But while the world waits, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” crossed the $800 million mark in global grosses, surpassing “The Batman” to become the top-grossing film of the year.
Released by the Walt Disney Co. and directed by Sam Raimi, “ Doctor Strange 2 ” benefitted from being the first Marvel movie to follow “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” in which Benedict Cumberbatch’s sorcerer played a pivotal role.
It also builds upon the popular Disney+ series “Wandavision” and contains a number of cameos that fans didn’t want to be spoiled.
Holdover family films “The Bad Guys” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” took the third and fourth spots. Universal’s “The Bad Guys” added $6.1 million in its fifth week. “Sonic 2” earned $3.9 million in its seventh.
Director Alex Garland’s folk horror thriller “Men” brought in $3.3 million for production company and distributor A24.
Meanwhile, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is still going strong even after nine weeks in release. The A24 film picked up an additional $3.3 million, down only 6% from the previous weekend, bringing its total grosses to $47 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $31.6 million.
2. “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” $16 million.
3. “The Bad Guys,” $6.1 million.
4. "Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” $3.9 million.
5. “Men,” $3.3 million.
6. “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” $3.1 million.
7. "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” $1.9 million.
8. “Firestarter,” $1.9 million.
9. “The Lost City,” $1.5 million.
10. “The Northman,” $1 million.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton
This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of "Downton Abbey" from "Downtown Abbey."