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‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Crushes at the Box Office, But ‘Lady Bird’ Soars

Meanwhile, ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’ may have arrived too early.
By  · Published on November 6th, 2017

Meanwhile, ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’ may have arrived too early.

Obviously, the latest Marvel movie topped the box office over the weekend. Thor: Ragnarok opened in first place with an estimated $121M, which is over a hundred million more than the next movie on the chart. Fellow newcomer A Bad Moms Christmas only took in $17M, which is slightly less than the first Bad Moms‘ opening figure of $24M last year. Meanwhile, Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, Lady Bird, had the best per-screen average of the year with $93.9K in four theaters for a total domestic bow of $376K.

First, let’s look at the success of Ragnarok. It’s a pretty good but also fairly standard start for an MCU installment. The Thor sequel had the second-best opening of Marvel’s three 2017 releases, less than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($147M) but a bit more than Spider-Man: Homecoming ($117M). It’s the best opening for the Thor series, yet it’s the worst for a Marvel part three, after Captain America: Civil War ($179M) and Iron Man 3 ($174M). That’s not even with adjustment made for inflation.

Compared to the Iron Man series, that’s understandable. With inflation adjustment,  Ragnarok opened lower than all three parts of that solo superhero trilogy. Compared to the Captain America series, however, is where it’s notably an underachiever. In 2011, both Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger kicked off with almost exactly the same amount: $65.7M versus $65.1M, respectively. Then came the divide with their sequels, as Thor: The Dark World opened to $85.7M and Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened to $95M. Now Ragnarok‘s $121M pales in relation to Civil War‘s $179M.

Of course, Civil War was a much bigger movie, enough that many people called it more of an Avengers sequel than a solo superhero effort. Ragnarok also extends beyond the single character of the title to add in Hulk and others, though it’s not on the same level. Civil War also reportedly cost $70M more to produce, closer to an Avengers budget. When you compare the series critically, Thor and First Avenger had similar positive Rotten Tomatoes scores (77%/80%), while Dark World and Winter Soldier were very different (66%/89%). Now Ragnarok has a similar score (93%) to Civil War (90%) and so deserved better.


Ragnarok also compares well with the Captain America movies on CinemaScore, which reflects the reactions of fans and general audiences attending opening night through theater polling. Captain America‘s grades have gone from ‘A-‘ to ‘A’ to ‘A’ again. Thor has shown greater improvement with the series going ‘B+’ to ‘A-‘ to ‘A,’ meaning Ragnarok was favored most, and equal to the last two Captain America sequels. There is a good chance that the new Thor movie will have stronger legs with word of mouth and repeat viewings given it’s so laugh-out-loud funny, possibly balancing out closer to Civil War‘s domestic total over time.

A Bad Moms Christmas didn’t exactly bomb, even if it looks so small next to Ragnarok. Opening on Wednesday, its five-day opening of $21.6M is even better next to the original movie’s figure. It’s not a big enough dip to make the sequelitis call. Compared to other women-ensemble comedies this year, it’s a hit next to Rough Night‘s $8M but not so much next to Girls Trip‘s $31.2M. The sequel is also a mother/daughter comedy, and its five-day gross is very close to fellow 2017 mother/daughter comedy Snatched ($22.9M)

Still, aside from the apparent thinking that it’s counter-programming for women against a superhero movie (as if women can’t or don’t like Marvel movies, especially those with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston), it’s weird that STX opened a Christmas comedy so early in November. Hopefully for them, the movie will still have appeal when the holiday season picks up. Where will it be on actual Christmas Day? Its much worse critical reception (33% compared to the original’s 58%) and CinemScore grade (‘B’ compared to the original’s ‘A’) makes a case for it being gone by then.

In other newcomer news, the presidential biopic LBJ opened bigger ($1.1M from 659 screens) than the movie with the same name as Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, yet the latter has a much more significant box office story. The acclaimed coming-of-age drama had an amazing weekend for just being in a quartet of theaters. Technically, its per-screen average is only the 74th best of all time (well, in the time that box office figures like this have existed), but it’s still the best average since La La Land‘s $179K last December.

Lady Bird

Having such a great per-screen average is no certainty of a hit with an expanded release. Red State has one of the best averages ever with $204K and only wound up with a total domestic gross of $1.1M. And even the more acclaimed The Grand Budapest Hotel (which like Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan) started with a $203K average and finished with only $59M, compared to La La Land debuting with a $176K average and finishing with $151M. La La Land‘s champion at the Oscars, Moonlight, also averaged very high yet only grossed $27.9M.

Speaking of the Oscars, though, the initial interest in Lady Bird does possibly mean it has a good chance at a nod for Best Picture. The same could be true of the next best per-screen average of the year, $84.1K, which belongs to The Big Sick. Last year, La La Land and Moonlight had their year’s best averages and were the biggest contenders for the top Oscar. However, the best of 2015, Steve Jobs, did not make the cut even though it received nominations in other categories. The next two (The Revenant and The Big Short) were up for Best Picture. The previous year’s top five averages belonged to The Grand Budapest HotelAmerican SniperThe Imitation GameBirdman, and Boyhood, all of them Best Picture nominees.

But before 2014, this seemingly perfect observation fails most of the time. Currently Lady Bird has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s with a good amount of reviews counted, so there’s really no doubt that it’s going to be a big deal during awards season. If it does get a Best Picture nod, though, will Gerwig have a chance at Best Director or will she be deemed too fresh? Perhaps we will see our first year with three Best Picture noms directed by women: Lady BirdWonder Woman, and Mudbound — plus Battle of the Sexes, which has a woman co-director.

Here’s the estimated top 10 for the weekend (newcomers in bold):

1. Thor: Ragnarok – $121M
2. A Bad Moms Christmas – $17M
3. Jigsaw – $6.7M
4. Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween – $4.7M
5. Geostorm – $3M
6. Happy Death Day – $2.8M
7. Thank You for Your Service – $2.3M
8. Blade Runner 2049 – $2.2M
9. Only the Brave – $1.9M
10. Let There Be Light  – $1.6M

All box office figures from Box Office Mojo

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.