Franchises are great. That’s why every movie studio wants one. Sometimes, it doesn’t work, like with The Golden Compass. Because very few children want to see a polar bear, even a mean one, get half his face punched off.
Then there are the ones that work—James Bond, Star Wars, Harry Potter. Think of these like the McDonald’s of the movie world: Even if they occasionally put out a subpar product (we can all agree On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the McPizza of the James Bond universe), people will still come back for more.
The Avengers movies undoubtedly belong in the aforementioned company, as proven by the opening-weekend earnings of Thor: The Dark World (64.80 index value). The second solo adventure of the hammer-wielding Hemsworth brother received the Marvel franchise’s weakest critical reception, although we should note our tracking only goes back to May 2011, which excludes the first two Iron Man entries. But despite the relatively lackluster ratings, it earned more in its first weekend ($86.1 million) than the better-received Thor (70.39, $65.7 million) and Captain America (74.23, $65 million) did in the summer of 2011.
While the Movie Quality Index was hardly in need of saving, Thor’s latest sojourn around the nine realms contributed to a bounce-back weekend that saw eight of the 10 top-earning movies record index scores north of 60—something that hasn’t happened in nearly a year. It was also the sole debut of the weekend, proving that every other studio is content to play Loki to Marvel’s Hulk.
The only entries from the past weekend that could remotely qualify as newcomers were 12 Years a Slave (92.44) and About Time (65.73), which officially entered wide release after limited appearances. The former nearly tripled its theater count, while the latter almost sextupled it, but both will be lucky to make in their entire run what Thor: The Dark World did in its debut weekend.
Earnings aside, we’re still in the midst of a great time to be a moviegoer. The overall MQI has bested the average for six straight weeks, while the revenue-weighted mark has notched seven consecutive above-average weeks. That’s unlikely to change this coming weekend, when just one new release (The Best Man Holiday) enters the fray. And with positive word of mouth already circulating about the following weekend’s newbies, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Delivery Man, audiences will head into Thanksgiving feeling grateful for the options at their disposal.