Thor box office: Shirtless Chris Hemsworth or no, Kenneth Branagh’s Marvel superhero actioner lagging behind its big-screen predecessors
May 6–8 weekend box office: Directed by Kenneth Branagh (he of Henry V and Hamlet), starring a – however briefly – shirtless Chris Hemsworth, and greeted by middling-to-positive reviews, Marvel/Paramount Pictures’ superhero actioner Thor easily topped the North American (U.S. and Canada only) box office chart, grossing $65.7 million from 3,955 theaters over this past Mother’s Day weekend as per final studio figures found at boxofficemojo.com.
With the assistance of higher ticket prices at 2,737 3D and 214 IMAX houses – comprising 60 percent of the opening-weekend take – Thor’s per-theater average was a solid $16,617.
The downside: Last week, pundits had been predicting a $70 million debut.
Thor vs. Fast Five
For comparison’s sake: Without the advantage of costlier 3D tickets, Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious pentaquel Fast Five opened the previous weekend in the U.S. and Canada, earning $86.2 million while averaging $23,654 per venue. (At no. 2 this past weekend, Fast Five took in $32.4 million – down a whopping 62 percent. Not helping matters, it had lost to Thor about 90 percent of its IMAX venues.)
Here’s another comparison: Thor’s weekend gross includes an estimated $3.3 million from Thursday midnight showings at 1,800 locations. In May 2010, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey Jr., drew in around $7.5 million from midnight showings at 2,500 locations.
But hold on! Thor is a big-screen “original,” whereas both Fast Five and Iron Man 2 are sequels. Shouldn’t one compare Thor to other big-screen Marvel “originals”?
Thor vs. previous Marvel superheroes
Below are the domestic opening-weekend figures – including “adjusted for inflation” approximations – of several “original” big-screen Marvel titles.
- Bryan Singer’s X-Men opened with $54.5 million (approx. $79 million today) from 3,025 theaters in July 2000. Domestic cume: $157 million. Worldwide: $296 million. Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Halle Berry.
- Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man opened with $114.8 million (approx. $155 million today) from 3,615 theaters in May 2002. Domestic cume: $403 million. Worldwide: $821 million. Cast: Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.
- Ang Lee’s Hulk opened with $62.1 million (approx. $81 million today) from 3,660 theaters in June 2003. Domestic cume: $132.2 million. Worldwide: $245.3 million. Cast: Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly.
- Tim Story’s Fantastic Four opened with $56.1 million (approx. $69 million today) from 3,602 theaters in July 2005. Domestic cume: $154 million. Worldwide: $330 million. Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, and Jessica Alba.
- Jon Favreau’s Iron Man opened with $98.6 million (approx. $108 million today) from 4,105 theaters in May 2008. Domestic cume: $318 million. Worldwide: $585 million. Cast: Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow.
- Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk opened with $55.4 million (approx. $61 million today) from 3,505 theaters in June 2008. Domestic cume: $134 million. Worldwide: $263 million. Cast: Edward Norton and Liv Tyler.
As can be seen, Thor also sold fewer tickets than the original X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk (2003), Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk (2008).
Wait … How can The Incredible Hulk be ahead of Thor?
Well, it unquestionably is in terms of ticket sales. Remember: As mentioned further up, Thor is screening at 2,737 3D houses – a box-office-inflating luxury that The Incredible Hulk (and earlier Marvel movies) lacked.
On the positive side, the Kenneth Branagh-Chris Hemsworth collaboration seems to be ahead of two Marvel titles directed by Mark Steven Johnson: Daredevil (opening weekend: $40.3 million in February 2003), starring Ben Affleck, and Ghost Rider (opening weekend: $45.4 million in February 2007), starring Nicolas Cage.
Will the Thunder God be powerful enough to earn a profit?
On the international front this past weekend (which may include Thursday/Wednesday), Thor lagged far behind Justin Lin’s Fast Five: An estimated $46 million for Thor from 60 territories (down about 50 percent from its first weekend) vs. an estimated $86.6 million for Fast Five, which has expanded to 58 territories.
Thor’s worldwide cume is an estimated $242 million.
The official budget is a reported $150 million (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses).
And that means the jury is still out on whether Thor will be a profitable venture at the box office.
Thor movie cast
Besides Chris Hemsworth, the Thor movie cast includes Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan, 2010) – the former as Odin, the latter as the scientist Jane Foster – in addition to Tom Hiddleston as the villainous Loki, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba (as Heimdall, apparently an attempt to forestall accusations of racism in, ahem, Norse mythology), Jaimie Alexander, Josh Dallas, Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza (Babel, 2006), and Stellan Skarsgård adding some local color as the token Scandinavian (a scientist who, as it happens, is working in the United States).
Also: Cameos by Marvel Cinematic Universe denizens Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson.
Lastly, it must be noted that Natalie Portman now has her third 2011 box office hit, following Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller Black Swan (which opened in late 2010) and Ivan Reitman’s romantic comedy No Strings Attached.
No significant profits or losses?
Update: Kenneth Branagh’s Thor ultimately collected $181 million domestically (eighth on the 2011 chart) and a far stronger $268.3 million internationally. Worldwide total: $449.3 million (fifteenth on the 2011 chart).
That was likely enough for Thor to break even at the box office.
Its top international markets were the United Kingdom/Ireland ($22.5 million), Australia ($20.1 million), Mexico ($19.5 million), France ($18.4 million), Russia/CIS ($16.5 million), Germany ($16 million), South Korea ($14.8 million), Spain ($12.4 million), Brazil ($12.1 million), and Italy ($10.9 million).
Ironically – but expectedly – Thor didn’t perform all that well in the three Scandinavian countries whose language and culture are derived from the Norse people: $2.3 million in Sweden, $2 million in Norway, and $1.5 million in Denmark.
Maybe having just one Scandinavian in the (English-speaking) cast wasn’t good enough for Nordic moviegoers.
More successful sequels
Below is the box office take of the three Thor sequels to date, all of them starring Chris Hemsworth.
Released in October 2013 (in the U.S.: November 2013), Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World collected $206.4 million domestically and $438.4 million internationally. Worldwide total: $644.8 million. Budget: $170 million. Also in the cast: Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba.
Released in October 2017 (in the U.S.: November 2017), Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok collected $315.1 million domestically and $540.2 million internationally. Worldwide total: $855.3 million. Budget: $180 million. Also in the cast: Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum.
Released in July 2022 (with COVID-19 still very much around), Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder collected $343.2 million domestically and $417.7 million internationally. Worldwide total: $760.9 million. Budget: $250 million. Also in the cast: Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Russell Crowe, Natalie Portman.
“Thor Box Office: Shirtless Chris Hemsworth Trailing Predecessors” notes
Featuring Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, and Angela Bassett, Salim Akil’s low-budget romantic comedy-drama Jumping the Broom may turn in a (possibly modest) profit, while the Kate Hudson-Ginnifer Goodwin romantic comedy Something Borrowed is definitely a money-loser.
Unless otherwise noted, “Thor Box Office: Shirtless Chris Hemsworth Trailing Predecessors” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).
Comments about Thor and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).
Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).
Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.
Lastly, although a more accurate reflection of a film’s popularity (i.e., its number of tickets sold), inflation-adjusted estimates should be taken with extreme caution. For instance, they’re based on average domestic ticket prices (via the National Association of Theater Owners, unless otherwise noted) whereas numerous major releases scored a large chunk of their box office take at top-priced venues.
Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, and shirtless Chris Hemsworth Thor movie images: Zade Rosenthal | Marvel Studios | Paramount Pictures.
“Thor Box Office: Shirtless Chris Hemsworth Trailing Predecessors” last updated in September 2023.