Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” opened with a stunning $14.4 million debut weekend in South Korea, far in excess of any film this year at the Korean box office. Its five-day opening score was $29.1 million.

Data from the Korean Film Council’s Kobis tracking service shows the film garnered an 87% market share over the weekend, as it lifted nationwide box office to pre-COVID levels for the first time in more than two years. Given that before the pandemic South Korea was the world’s fourth largest theatrical market, the possibility of a rebound has global significance.

The Korean success of “Doctor Strange” is drawn from the film’s high anticipation and the relaxation of social distancing rules that have kept Koreans away from cinemas for a prolonged period.

If the Friday-to-Sunday weekend period was revelatory of new possibilities for the Korean box office, the film’s opening two days were even more so.

On its Wednesday debut, “Doctor Strange” clocked $5.81 million of gross revenues, earned from 715,000 admissions. The following day, known as the Children’s Day holiday in Korea, the film earned $8.85 million from 1.06 million admissions. No film has enjoyed over a million admissions in a day in Korea since November 2019 when “Frozen” achieved the feat on its tenth day of release.

On Friday, “Doctor Strange” earned $4.87 million, followed by $5.59 million on Saturday, and $3.96 million on Sunday.

While those figures are down from Friday’s peak, each day is higher than many entire weekend performances this year. Between February and April, when the COVID epidemic was at its worst, aggregate nationwide box office from weekend screenings was just $38 million or a per weekend average of less than $3 million.

Inside five days, “Doctor Strange” has become the biggest film of 2022 in Korea by a huge margin. Second place belongs to 2021 release “Spider Man: No Way Home” with $15.3 million earned in 2022. (“Spider-Man” also earned $42.8 million in 2021.) Third place in 2022 belongs to “The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure” with a career total of $9.86 million.

Giant screen operator Imax, reported that the opening for “Doctor Strange” was the third highest weekend on record in its Korean venues.

“Doctor Strange” did few favors for the other titles on release and grabbed just shy of 2,700 screens. Hit U.S. animation, “The Bad Guys” opened in Korea with just $1.93 million over five days, including $822,000 over the weekend proper. It played on just 763 screens.

In third place, Japanese animation “Butt Detective The Movie: The Secret of Souffle Island” earned $835,000 in its opening four days (with $363,000 between Friday and Sunday) from 664 screens.
Korean film “I Want to Know Your Parents” took a 72% tumble in its second week of release, falling to $343,000 and a cumulative of $2.60 million after 12 days.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” fell from first place to fifth. Its $238,000 over the latest weekend edged it to a cumulative of $9.38 million.