Was Thor: Love and Thunder a success? That's a tricky question.
It depends on who you ask. If one were to ask Disney CEO Bob Chapek, he'd likely say "absolutely" or "Taika Waititi prints money."
However, if you ask a long-time Thor fan that misses a more serious tone they may give a very different answer.
Love and Thunder doubled down on the humor of Ragnarok and was met with mixed reviews by critics and MCU fans. Some believe it was far too campy and ruined the movie, others thought it was hilarious while also finding an enjoyable balance.
Here's the bottom line. It made money. Serious, could green-light a fifth Thor film, type of money.
Thor: Love and Thunder Breaks Box Office Record
At the domestic box office, Love and Thunder has grossed $342.4 million. 2017's Thor: Ragnarok grossed $315 million, Thor: The Dark World grossed $206.4 million, and the original Thor earned $181 million.
This is the first time in box office history that a live-action blockbuster franchise with four installments has continually outperformed its predecessor at the domestic box office.
Sure, open another tab and try to find another. It won't happen.
Even the four-part Avengers franchise had a sequel, Age of Ultron, that made less than the original.
Star Wars? Not even close, Empire Strikes Back made nearly $100 million less than A New Hope.
This is a niche record, due to the fact that many franchises don't go beyond a three-part trilogy.
Also, a lot of multi-part franchises, like Harry Potter, start off with a massive haul (Sorcerer's Stone grossed $317.6 million) and are met with an immediate dip with its sequel (Chamber of Secrets grossed $261.9 million).
The Lord of the Rings franchise almost accomplished this same feat. If one counts the 1978 Lord of the Rings animated film, the first four films of this franchise continually made more domestically.
- Fellowship of the Ring - $316.1 million
- The Two Towers - $342.9 million
- The Return of the King - $378.2 million
The Hobbit film series took the J.R.R. Tolken-inspired movies headed in the wrong direction at the box office:
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - $303 million
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - $258.4 million
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - $255.1 million
The five-film Twilight Franchise starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner in general continued to make more money, but its two-part finale may have hurt its chances at this particular record.
- Twilight - $192.8 million
- New Moon - $296.6 million
- Eclipse - $300.5 million
- Breaking Dawn Part 1 - $281.3 million
- Breaking Dawn Part 2 - $292.3 million
The franchise that can be closest compared to Thor is Pixar Animation's Toy Story. The four Toy Story films consistently grossed more money at the domestic box office, but Toy Story 3 and 4 acted more as legacy sequels.
- Toy Story 1 - $191.8 million
- Toy Story 2 - $245.9 million
- Toy Story 3 - $415 million
- Toy Story 4 - $434 million
Why Thor Broke the Mold
Thor is in a unique situation in that Chris Hemsworth's solo movies have only become more popular as time moves on. In order to get this specific record, the first film can't overperform at the box office. In many ways, this four-film franchise repeated itself.
2011's Thor performed well enough to warrant future installments, but the sequel was bound to gross more no matter the quality.
2017's Thor: Ragnarok performed so well that Marvel Studios green-lit the MCU's first fourth solo film, but the sequel was set up to make even more regardless of reviews.
That's a recipe for continuous growth, even if it requires a less-than-perfect early performance.
It's also important to note that this is specific to the North American box office. However, if accounting for the lost Chinese box office, Love and Thunder made roughly the same as Ragnarok.
Thor 3 made $122.7 million in China, Thor 4 grossed exactly $0 this year in the same market.
After becoming the largest box office market in 2020, China has reverted back to showing very few Hollywood films, in lieu of producing and distributing their own blockbuster films.
The Captain America franchise has the next opportunity to beat Thor's newly discovered record. If New World Order, led by Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson, grosses more than Civil War's $408 million domestically it would join Thor in this unique four-film box office record.