The Marvel Cinematic Universe has created a rage all over the world, and India is no exception. Their upcoming film, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, has generated tremendous hype all over, not just in metros but also in smaller towns. Though it will be released on May 6, the advance booking commenced way back on April 8. Yet, audiences were so excited that shows began to get full a month in advance!
Girish Johar, producer and film business analyst, said, “The advances are tremendous. The IMAX version alone has sold tickets worth Rs. 5 crore for the opening weekend. This is unheard of, for a Hollywood film. What is surprising is that Benedict Cumberbatch is not a traditional Hollywood mass hero for the Indian sensibilities. For Indians, Vin Diesel or the actor playing James Bond and Spider-Man…basically the ones who are in the zone of Salman Khan, have far more appeal. Benedict Cumberbatch is an urban star, even for the Hollywood market. For his film to get an advance of Rs. 20 crore for the weekend is unimaginable! First KGF – Chapter 2 and now this, these days, the Indian box office is going the unthinkable way.”
Trade veteran Taran Adarsh stated, “The advance is fantastic. I have been speaking to some exhibitors and they are very excited. I remember when the advances opened last month, one exhibitor told me ‘Aane waale dinon mein Hollywood ka bol baala hoga.’ It’s been proven. Post-pandemic, Spider-Man: No Way Home also did huge business. And now it’s Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness that will have a huge opening. Of course, these are event films. Not every Hollywood film will have an earth-shattering response. But, somewhere down the line, people want to watch wholesome entertainers that give them value for their money.”
Trade analyst Atul Mohan remarked, “The advance booking has been fantastic everywhere. Also, they are at an advantage as the last week’s releases – Heropanti 2 and Runway 34 – have not worked. KGF – Chapter 2 is still running and it got a boost on Eid. However, it won’t pose a threat and Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness would be the first choice for viewers.”
Vishek Chauhan, owner of Roopbani Cinema in Bihar, meanwhile, said, “The bookings are extraordinary. I never expected Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness to have such kind of advances. It’s easily one of the best advances of the year. After War (2019), no Hindi film has managed to put up good advance sales. So, Bollywood films are out of contention. The advances for this would be comparable to RRR or even better.”
The Marvel and Spider-Man connection
Marvel’s previous film, Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) had created a frenzy among audiences. The character of Doctor Strange was an important part of that film. As a result, the buzz for Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness has increased manifold after the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
On this, Girish Johar said, “Spider-Man: No Way Home is a very massy, kid-friendly film targeted at the younger crowds. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness seems to be an urban, intelligent, complex film. Doctor Strange’s presence in Spider-Man: No Way Home definitely added more legs to its box office as it also catered to the smart-rich audience. And by associating Spider-Man with Doctor Strange, you are attracting the massy audience to the latter’s film. It’s a brilliant technique to increase your target audience. It has worked wonderfully with Spider-Man: No Way Home and we can clearly say that it has worked well for Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness too.”
Vishek Chauhan agreed with this notion and added, “The first Doctor Strange film didn’t collect much in India. Over the years, the Marvel brand has grown a lot. Moreover, thanks to Doctor Strange’s entry into the Avengers series and Spider-Man film, you really have a huge film in your hands.”
Expected screen count
With Heropanti 2 and Runway 34 underperforming, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness surely would have an advantage in getting screens. Girish Johar said, “Yes, it’ll get more preference now. All the DCI-compliant screens will not leave Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, be it in any language.”
Taran Adarsh reminded, “The Hollywood films of course have those limitations, with regards to 2K. Irrespective of the screen count, the number of shows would be maximum at most of the properties. However, there would be KGF – Chapter 2 also, which will pose a tough competition in the mass belts, despite being in the fourth week. However, in the multiplexes in metros, there’ll be a show of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness every half-an-hour or one hour. That will compensate for the number of screens.” He continued, “Nevertheless, it’ll be one of the biggest releases in Hollywood. The screen count is not known yet.”
Atul Mohan agreed, “It’ll be one of the biggest Hollywood releases. Avengers: Endgame (2019), the biggest Marvel release yet, didn’t have any competition. Here, it’ll have some resistance from KGF – Chapter 2. A lot of Muslim audiences have stepped out now to watch the film. In the Hindi belt, KGF – Chapter 2 will retain some shows and screens.”
Vishek Chauhan opined, “Marvel by far is the biggest brand in India, by leaps and bounds. One of the biggest problems that Marvel faces is that it can only be released in 2K. If it could have gone all out, Avengers: Endgame would have easily overtaken Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion (2017). That is the kind of pull these films have now even in tier-2 and tier-3 towns. It’s not like people in Bihar are not aware of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. Thanks to social media and the internet, the world is now a seamless place.”
Day 1 predictions
Spider-Man: No Way Home took an opening of Rs. 32.67 crore, despite releasing in limited properties. Maharashtra and a few more states were also running at 50% occupancy at that time. With all restrictions being removed now, can we expect Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness’s opening to be better than Spider-Man: No Way Home?
Girish Johar replied, “It is possible. I am not denying it. However, Spider-Man: No Way Home was more child-friendly and had a wider appeal. The target audience here is the urbane crowd, in tier-1 cities. Spider-Man, meanwhile, has a fan base in tier-3 and tier-4 cities as well. Hence, I doubt it’ll have an opening like Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Taran Adarsh cautioned, “It’s a wait and watch. There would be spot bookings also. A clear picture would emerge only on the day of release. By Friday morning, we’ll get to know the trend. But yes, this will be amongst the biggest openers for Hollywood in India.”
Atul Mohan said, “As per the trends, it won’t be surprising if it opens better than Spider-Man: No Way Home. Doctor Strange was a part of Spider-Man as well. Hence, those who have seen that film will be desperate to see Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. Assuming that 10% of the audience of Spider-Man doesn’t make it, it\’s still fine as it’ll get 10-15% of new audiences who didn’t see Spider-Man: No Way Home in theatres but will now be curious to watch this film. So yes, it can have a better opening than the previous Spider-Man movie.”
Vishek Chauhan stated, “Disney is expecting Rs. 30 crore plus day one. I think the opening would be in the range of Rs. 25 to 35 crore. That would be more than the lifetime of John Abraham’s films and Jersey.”
Earlier, this year, S S Rajamouli’s RRR had a huge opening of Rs. 20.07 crore. Hence, as per the trade, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness will definitely open better than the Jr NTR-Ram Charan starrer.
The other important question is whether it’ll be able to cross the lifetime of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which stands at Rs. 218.41 crore? To which, Taran Adarsh said, “It all depends on how the audience takes to the film. There’s a film next week, Jayeshbhai Jordaar. However, it’s a very content-driven film and at the moment, the buzz is low-key. So we’ll have to see how that film opens up.” However, he added that “If it crosses Spider-Man: No Way Home’s lifetime that will be huge.”
Girish Johar feels it might not be possible, “The target audience is still less than Spider-Man: No Way Home. KGF – Chapter 2 did Rs. 50 crore on day 1 as it appealed more. At the end of the day, it’ll work in the top 20 cities at the maximum. It’ll not work in a place like say Ichalkaranji. Until these towns don\’t come on board, such films won’t get numbers like KGF – Chapter 2.”
Atul Mohan, however, said, “If the content clicks, not just the day 1, even the lifetime can be more than Spider-Man: No Way Home. Also, many states were at 50% occupancy then. As a result, the business was restricted. Moreover, being a Marvel movie, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness will have surprise elements too.”
He is not even denying the possibility of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness going past the lifetime of The Kashmir Files (Rs. 252.90 crore and counting) and RRR (Rs. 261.83 crore and counting). He said, “If all goes well, anything can happen.”
Like Taran Adarsh, Atul Mohan also believed that Jayeshbhai Jordaar, which releases next week, won’t affect Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness much, “It has limited buzz. We are not doubting Ranveer Singh. I am sure he has done a fine job. But overall, it seems like they have shown too much of the story in the trailer.”
Vishek Chauhan predicted that Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness would have a lifetime of Rs. 175-200 crore. He emphasized, “It also depends on the public reports. It\’s unfair if you compare it with Spider-Man: No Way Home. That is an established brand. It was the first big Hollywood film in India after Titanic. It needs no introduction. Doctor Strange still doesn’t have that kind of fan following. Yet, the Marvel association will help it open well. However, to expect the film to go beyond Spider-Man: No Way Home might be unfair.”
Another wake up call for Bollywood
The craze for Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness has once again put the focus on Bollywood films and their inability to generate a similar kind of craze. Girish Johar quipped, “Benedict Cumberbatch is not even on social media. Their team didn’t promote the film on any TV show in India. There were no marketing gimmicks, no inter-city tours, Benedict didn’t try to woo Indian audiences with ‘I love you, India’ messages. Yet, they are clocking Rs. 20 plus crore!”
Vishek Chauhan thundered, “Bollywood is being weeded out. It’ll continue to happen until it doesn’t align its thoughts and sensibilities to India at large. Bollywood has become a film industry of South Bombay.”
He signed off by saying, “Look at the way Marvel has gone. Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness is going to open at Rs. 30 crore. Meanwhile, is there a single Bollywood hero today that can guarantee a Rs. 30 crore day 1 on a non-holiday?”