Marvel-Disney’s “Doctor Strange” is dominating domestic moviegoing, heading for an opening weekend of as much as $75 million at 3,882 locations in North America, early estimates showed Friday.
“Doctor Strange” looks likely to double the launch of DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls” in the $35 million to $40 million range at 4,060 sites. Mel Gibson’s World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge” will finish a distant third with about $12 million at over 2,286 North American locations for Lionsgate.
The Marvel film opened impressively on Thursday night with $9.4 million — well ahead of numbers for “X-Men: Apocalypse” ($8.2 million) and “Thor: the Dark World” ($7.1 million). Combines with Thursday night previews, total grosses for “Doctor Strange” should rise to about $30 million after Friday is counted. Estimates indicate the film will be the biggest opener since “Suicide Squad” launched with $133.6 million during the Aug. 5-7 frame.
Doctor Strange,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has been forecast to open to at least $70 million. That’s higher than the openings of three other Marvel titles that also introduced a new character to multiplexes — “Ant-Man” ($57.2 million), “Thor” ($65.7 million), and “Captain America: The First Avenger” ($65 million).
It also will probably top the $70 million taken in by the 24th James Bond film “Spectre,” starring Daniel Craig, which opened on the same weekend a year ago.
For Cumberbatch, “Doctor Strange” is his first move into superhero turf. The film topped the foreign box office last weekend with $87.7 million and is expanding this weekend to 94% of the international market as it adds Russia, China and Brazil. It’s topped $133 million as of Thursday from international markets with South Korea leading the way at $22 million.
“Doctor Strange” also stars Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Tilda Swinton, and is directed by Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”). It follows a brilliant surgeon who turns to mysticism following a devastating car accident and carries a $165 million price tag.
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said that “Doctor Strange” is performing well for a property with a character who’s never been on the big screen previously.
“Benedict Cumberbatch makes his Marvel big screen debut in the role he was born to play as ‘Dr. Strange’ will pull a revenue generating rabbit out of the hat with a weekend gross that is on the low end expected to bring in the low $70 millions, while on the high end could be pushing $90 million,” he said. “This made all the more impressive by a featured superhero that is lesser-known and decidedly esoteric, yet carries the legendarily strong appeal of the Marvel imprimatur.”
“Trolls,” a big screen adventure based on the popular toyline, is eyeing a $38 million debut when it bows on 4,060 locations. The film should get a lift from the inclusion of the Justin Timberlake song “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Timberlake also voices one of the lead characters, along with Anna Kendrick.
In the film, the happy-go-lucky life of the Trolls is upended after a group of large creatures invades their land. The film has a $125 million production budget.
Lionsgate’s release of “Hacksaw Ridge” will expand Friday to 2,886 North American sites. The film is a World War II drama about conscientious objector Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, who won the Medal of Honor for saving 75 lives as a medic during the Battle of Okinawa.
The film premiered to a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival and has generated stellar reviews with 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. “Hacksaw Ridge” should open to about $12 million this weekend.
Dergarabedian noted that the box office offerings are strong enough to pull patrons away from the election.
“This weekend offers up a truly exciting line-up that should finally put some magic into the box office as Marvel’s “Dr. Strange,” Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” and the family-friendly “Trolls” look to get out the bi-partisan vote at the multiplex,” he said. “As we hit the home stretch as what has been a pretty slow fall movie season, this weekend should turn up the heat and offering compelling alternatives to election cable news coverage and other small screen options.”
“Doctor Strange” is giving the fall box office a badly needed shot in the arm. It’s down 9.5% for the season to $1.22 billion domestically. Year-to-date grosses are up 3% to $9.24 billion, thanks largely to a robust performance in the first four months of 2016.