Elizabeth Olsen in 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'.

Marvel has again weaved its magic at the box office, with Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness collecting $14.5 million from its opening weekend, passing Matt Reeves’ The Batman to claim the second-highest result of the pandemic era behind Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Released on 863 screens, Disney’s sorcerer sequel reached an average of $16,834 per session, well outstripping its predecessor, Doctor Strange, which bowed to $6.4 million from 278 screens at an average of $23,200 per location when it was released in 2016.

The performance meant the overall total for the top 20 films came in at $19.6 million, signalling a 106 per cent increase from last weekend.

Worldwide, Doctor Strange 2 raked up US$450 million to have the second-biggest global start for a Hollywood movie during the pandemic era. Of the estimated total, Deadline reports US$265 million came from markets outside the US, including US$30 million from Korea.

Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Dr Stephen Strange in Sam Raimi’s film, which follows the titular character as he casts a forbidden spell that opens the doorway to the multiverse, including alternate versions of himself. The ensuing threat to humanity proves too great for the combined forces of Strange, Wong (Benedict Wong), and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen).

On the domestic front, there were high hopes for Roadshow’s The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, following its world premiere at last year’s SXSW and prominence in the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) and Sydney Film Festival (SFF) programs.

Leah Purcell’s feature adaption of her award-winning stageplay bowed to $173,913 from 79 screens for an average of $2,201 per session, enough for ninth place on the list.

Commenting on the result, a spokesman for Roadshow said it was “very early” in the film’s release and that the company was “looking forward to a long run in cinemas”.

Elsewhere in the top ten, Universal’s Downton Abbey: A New Era drew $1.4 million in its sophomore frame – a 26 per cent drop – to tally at $4.2 million and come in at second place. Rounding out the top three was Paramount rom-com The Lost City, which had $846,196 from its fourth weekend for a cumulative total of $13.6 million.

Paramount stablemate Sonic the Hedgehog 2 leapfrogged Warner Bros. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore for fourth position, bringing in $454,329 to move past $20 million after six weekends. The latest edition of the Fantastic Beasts franchise garnered $433,207 from its fifth frame to reach a cume of $17.6 million.

One spot down, Roadshow’s Everything Everywhere All at Once maintained its momentum with 393,631 in its fourth outing – a drop of 26 per cent – for an overall gross of $3.2 million.

Universal’s animated feature The Bad Guys dropped two places from last week with 390,856 in its sixth weekend to tally at $14 million overall. It was a similar story for Universal’s Viking epic The Northman, which fell from sixth to eighth, generating $321,953 – a 55 per cent drop from its second frame.

Bookending the top ten was Forum Films’ new Punjabi release Maa from director Baljit Singh Deo. The film bowed to $165,626 from 60 screens for an average of $2,760 per session.

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