DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS scored many triumphs this past weekend as it opened to an estimated $450 million global box office. But none was perhaps more significant than its success in South Korea.

South Korea had, until this week, been the only major global box office market unable to achieve the Stage 4 and 5 box office targets on Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery. Audience appetite for Sam Raimi’s MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS looks to have pushed the market to finally hit both!

The DOCTOR STRANGE sequel delivered the biggest opening in South Korea since the pandemic began, with a 6-day box office of WON 37.16 billion ($29.6m), according to our partners at Comscore Movies. The standard 4-day weekend brought in WON 29.76 billion ($23.8m).

South Korea’s Road To Recovery

Gower Street’s Blueprint To Recovery was designed to measure the different rates of initial recovery in different markets around the world and to see, once achieved, how well markets sustained recovery levels. Stages 3-5 measured box office play-weeks with Stage 3 being the “base” level, measured as a play-week equivalent to the lowest-grossing play-week of the two pre-pandemic years (2018-2019) in any given market.

South Korea was one of the earliest major global markets to achieve its Stage 3 target, way back in the July 16 play-week in 2020, thanks to homegrown hit TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS: PENINSULA. It did so before any European or Latin American market. Only Japan and Taiwan, which hit Stage 3 in the same play-week, matched it.

Unfortunately since then the Asia Pacific major had been unable to progress to the more significant recovery stages. Achieving Stage 4 would occur when a play-week delivered box office equivalent to the median play-week of 2018-2019. Stage 5 would be met when a box office play-week equivalent to one in the top quartile of 2018-2019 play-weeks had occurred.

China would be the first major market to achieve Stages 4 and 5, hitting both in the August 21, 2020 play-week with the opening of THE EIGHT HUNDRED. By the close of 2020 Japan had followed China’s example (Oct. 17 play-week thanks to DEMON SLAYER: MUGEN TRAIN), while other Asia Pacific markets Taiwan and Singapore had both surpassed Stage 4.

Russia would become the first European market to achieve Stage 5, in the first play-week of 2021, and by the close of 2021 all but one of the 30 markets tracked in Gower Street’s weekly State Of The Market subscriber report had achieved their Stage 5 targets at least once. The missing market?: South Korea.

The majority of markets tracked in the State Of The Market report (19) all hit Stage 5 in the same mid-December 2021 play-week thanks to the opening of another Marvel Studios’ title, which featured Doctor Strange: SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. The Domestic market did so that (Dec. 17) play-week, as did major international markets including France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Mexico and Brazil, and Asia Pacific markets including Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Heading into 2022 South Korea was the outlier, but finally it looks to have joined the club. The latest (May 5-8) weekend delivered WON 34.88 billion – already enough to carry South Korea well past its Stage 4 target (WON 31.75bn). The 4-day result of DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (see above) wasn’t quite enough to get there single-handedly. However, the film was also backed up by two animated openers: DreamWorks Animation’s THE BAD GUYS at #2 and Japanese double-bill BUTT DETECTIVE THE MOVIE: THE SECRET OF SOUFFLE ISLAND + SURVIVAL IN DEEP SEA at #3.

Officially a market has to achieve the box office target of the various stages on the Blueprint To Recovery in a single, standard play-week to be considered to have achieved the stage. We will have to wait and see if Monday-Wednesday business (May 9-11) remains strong enough to officially carry South Korea to Stage 5 in the current play-week. Its target is WON 41.93 billion.

Unofficially the market has already achieved this too. The DOCTOR STRANGE sequel opened in South Korea on Wednesday last week (May 4). Considering the 7 days to May 8, the market grossed WON 43.99 billion. Even just the past five days (May 4-8) delivered WON 42.68 billion.

This means DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS has truly conjured something remarkable and seemingly elusive: full box office recovery levels in South Korea. Now that local audiences have shown willingness to return in major numbers, the market must start the, arguably even harder, work of sustaining those box office recovery levels long-term.