Weekend Box Office: The ‘Doctor’ Is In

The North America box office got a desperately needed shot in the arm this weekend as a trio of new films brought viewers into multiplexes in sizeable numbers. Disney/Marvel’s Doctor Strange was the biggest winner of the lot while Dreamworks’ Trolls hit it off with family crowds. Lionsgate’s Hacksaw Ridge opened to moderate but promising numbers in third.

Thanks in large part to the $145 million contributed by the aforementioned trio of newcomers, the top ten skyrocketed a staggering 142% over last weekend’s numbers and 21% over last year at this time when Spectre and The Peanuts Movie each had considerable debuts of their own.

Marvel Studios enjoyed their 14th number one opening this weekend thanks to the estimated $85 million brought in by their latest endeavor, Doctor Strange. The opening on 3,882 screens for the $165 million production was the third highest of all time for a Marvel origin film behind the original Iron Man ($98 million) and Guardians of the Galaxy ($94 million). 3D, IMAX and other large format venues helped contribute greatly to the opening numbers.

The daily breakdown for the Benedict Cumberbatch headliner was $32.6 million on Friday –of which $9.4 million came from Thursday night showings-, $31.1 million on Saturday and an estimated $21.2 million for Sunday.

Fan anticipation and the Mouse House’s aggressive marketing campaign brought in the masses for opening weekend, but it’s the strong word-of-mouth that should help keep it afloat throughout year’s end. Critical notices for Strange were very strong, scoring a 90% critical approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps more importantly though was the feedback from opening day crowds. They gave the trippy epic a solid “A” on CinemaScore.

Should all the favorable feedback translate into box office longevity, Doctor Strange should be able to earn at least $250 million in the States and considerably more overseas. Speaking of the foreign markets, the film has already pocketed a great $240 million after ten days of release. That amount includes a sizeable $44 million taken in from China this weekend.

In second place with a big $45 million from 4,060 venues was Fox/Dreamworks’ animated feature Trolls. The PG-rated family flick opened at about the same level that The Peanuts Movie a year ago. That Fox feature went on to finish with $130 million.

Reviews were solid for the cartoon, which features the voice talents of Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, James Corden and Zooey Deschanel. Trolls scored a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an “A” CinemaScore rating from ticket buyers.

Trolls should have the family market to itself right up until Thanksgiving weekend, when Disney’s next animated feature, Moana, arrives on the scene. Overseas grosses for Trolls currently stand at $104 million.

The third new arrival to the top ten was Lionsgate’s World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge, with an estimated $14.8 million from 2,880 theaters. Ridge is the first feature directed by Mel Gibson in a decade, the last being the Disney action flick Apocalypto. As with Doctor Strange and Trolls, Hacksaw Ridge connected with both critics and ticket buyers. The $40 million production -which stars Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn and Teresa Palmer-, scored a solid 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an “A” from those polled on CinemaScore. That word-of-mouth should keep Hacksaw Ridge a popular option for adult audiences over the next few weeks.

Fading flicks from October populated the rest of the top ten. With Halloween a distant memory, Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween saw its fortunes fall by 55% in its third weekend of release. Still on 2,234 screens, Perry’s latest hit comedy brought in an estimated $7.8 million to bring its overall total to $65 million. A final haul between $75-80 million is still possible.

Rounding out the top five was the Tom Hanks bomb Inferno with $6.25 million from 3,576 theaters. A decrease of 58% from its dismal Halloween opening, Inferno has engulfed a weak $26 million so far and may crawl its way to $35 million in domestic sales. Foreign figures stand at a far healthier $159.3 million.

  1. The Accountant (Warner) $5.95 million (-30%); $70.8 million
  1. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Paramount) $5.6 million (-42%); $49.2 million
  1. Ouija: Origin of Evil (Universal) $4 million (-44%); $31.3 million
  1. The Girl on the Train (Universal) $2.77 million (-37%); $70.7 million
  1. Miss Peregrine (Fox) $2.1 million (-48%); $83.3 million

Next weekend sees the arrival of the acclaimed sci-fi drama Arrival, the comedy Almost Christmas and the thriller Shut In. Arrival should have a solid debut, but not enough to unseat Doctor Strange or Trolls.

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