Mad Box Office, but Doctor Strange 2 Nabs Second Worst MCU CinemaScore


Doctor Strange, Wong, Wanda Maximoff, and America Chavez have taken audiences on a mind-bending journey through the multiverse, but while the interconnected film is racing towards higher box office, it only received a B+ CinemaScore, which is ties with Thor and just edges out Eternals, which actually received a B.


If you’re unfamiliar with CinemaScore, their ratings are quite different from aggregated reviewer scores on sites like Rotten Tomatoes because they are based on questions given on opening night and are more about anticipation vs reality.


From the CinemaScore website:


A movie’s overall CinemaScore can range from A+ to F. Each opening weekend, CinemaScore polls moviegoers directly at theatres across North America, including Canada. Pollsters provide audience members a ballot with six questions—including an A to F grade scale, purchase and rental interest and demographic data. To answer these questions, moviegoers bend back tabs on the CinemaScore ballot (instead of having to use a pen or pencil to fill out a questionnaire or survey). After the movie ends, audience members return their ballots to CinemaScore’s pollsters, who tabulate the data and send the results immediately to CinemaScore.

CinemaScore is recognized by leaders in entertainment, news and the media for establishing the simplest, most effective and most reliable means of gauging audience response and movie appeal on opening night. 


But what does that really mean? 


On opening Friday, 5 cities are randomly chosen from 25 potential cities in the US and Canada. In these cities, audiences are given a small survey card with 6 questions: age, gender, film grade, whether they would rent or buy the film, and why they chose to go see the film. CinemaScore does polling only on opening night, generally when the fans who have the highest interest to see a film will go. The entire score for a movie is calculated based off of (on average) 400 completed surveys. All in all, it’s a pretty biased survey with a relatively poor sample size and it’s pretty obvious that this would be a terrible measure for whether or not most people liked a movie, because it is people who went to see it on opening night.



However, the vast majority of blockbusters get B+ or higher, which makes sense if you don’t look at it as a grade of the film, but as a grade of the marketing. Most films aren’t trying to deceive people with their trailers and ads. The rating system should be viewed more like this: A+ is great, A is good, B is slightly underwhelming, C is awful, D is awfuller, and F is why did you make this movie. So the long and short of it, CinemaScore is a measure of how well a movie is marketed. It is a poor measure of the overall quality of a movie due to biases and small sample sizes. Most blockbusters get a B or better score, and pretty much every Marvel and Star Wars film has gotten at least an A-. 


Has the mostly underwhelming CinemaScore hurt the box office? Hardly. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ran away with the weekend box office. Reports today say it brought in $187 million. A huge opening for sure, with worldwide numbers looking to be around $450 million, which is the second-highest opening for any MPA movie since Covid-19, trailing only Spider-Man: No Way Home which opened for $650 million, but was a bit more family friendly.



Part of what makes this movie an audience draw is the continuation of both Doctor Stephen Strange’s story, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch, but also following up on Wanda Maximoff aka the Scarlet Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen. The film is picking up after both Spider-Man: No Way Home and WandaVision. Toss in some special cameos and Marvel appears to have hit a home run here, at least among the faithful MCU stans that consume all of the Disney’s content.


Critics rate the film as a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. Which is quite low on the RT charts of MCU films as it only edges out The Eternals (47%), Thor: The Dark World (66%), The Incredible Hulk (67%), and  Iron Man 2 (72%), which all failed to muster Tomatometer scores above 75%. So by modern MCU standards, at least from the perspective of professional critics, Doctor Strange 2 appears to be a little underwhelming.

However, since the RT audience score is currently sitting at 87%, we can probably expect to see the Master of the Mystic Arts remain the Master of the Box Office for at least another week or two.



Jamison Ashley

Comic geek, movie nerd, father, and husband - but not necessarily in that order. Former captain of this ship o' fools secretly training everyone's computers and snarkphone spell-checkers to misspell 'supposebly.'