LOS ANGELES, May 23 — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness continued its domination in North American theatres this weekend, earning an estimated US$31.6 million (RM138.7 million), while the latest Downton Abbey came in a stately second, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations said yesterday.

Marvel and Disney’s Strange, again starring the versatile Benedict Cumberbatch, has been a Covid-era star since its release three weekends ago. It has now earned US$342 million domestically and US$461 million abroad for a global total of US$803 million.

Downton Abbey: A New Era from Focus Features took in a solid US$16 million. Perhaps not surprising given the huge popularity of the British TV series that inspired it, but nonetheless a sign that older moviegoers — the most reluctant to return to pandemic-era theatres — are beginning to do so.

“This is a very good opening,” said David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research, who noted that nearly half of ticket buyers were aged 55 or older.

Writer/director Julian Fellowes, Gross said, “is the George Lucas of period English sitting-room drama.”

Most of the original Downton cast — led by Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery — appear in the sequel, which critics have called an “affectionate group hug.” In third place for the Friday-through-Sunday period was Universal’s animated action-comedy The Bad Guys.

The DreamWorks Animation production, with a voice cast led by Sam Rockwell, Awkwafina and Anthony Ramos, took in US$6.1 million.

Paramount’s family-friendly Sonic the Hedgehog 2 slipped one spot from last weekend to fourth, at US$3.9 million.

In fifth was A24’s new horror film Men, at US$3.3 million. Directed by Alex Garland, who made “Ex Machina,” and starring Jessie Buckley, it drew a rare low D+ grade from the CinemaScore site.

Meanwhile a pro-Donald Trump film, 2000 Mules, earned US$765,000 to claim 11th spot.

The movie from conservative Dinesh D’Souza — who in 2018 received a pardon from Trump for a felony conviction of making illegal campaign contributions — falsely claims to offer “smoking gun” evidence of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

- Everything Everywhere All at Once (US$3.1 million)

- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (US$1.9 million)

- Firestarter (US$1.9 million)

- The Lost City (US$1.5 million)

- The Northman (US$1 million) — AFP