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Never mind that Doctor Strange features a lesser-known superhero — the Marvel Studios and Disney title grossed a huge $32.6 million Friday from 3,882 theaters at the North American box office for a projected $80 million-plus weekend, well ahead of expectations and one of the top openings of the year to date.
And at this pace, the movie will mark the biggest opening outside of Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy for the first installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe title, beating the first Thor, Captain America and Ant-Man. Disney is remaining cautious and suggesting a domestic debut in the $77 million-$82 million range, but others are betting on the high end.
Doctor Strange stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, a surgeon who, after both of his hands are injured in a car accident, seeks out the help of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who teaches him to use the mystical arts. The pic, which also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams, boasts glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore.
The movie has already earned $132.9 million from select international markets since debuting overseas last weekend. And it’s off to a rousing start in China, where it posted a first-day gross of $12 million or more on Friday.
DreamWorks Animation and Fox’s Trolls is likewise helping away to chase away the blues at the North American box office, where revenue tumbled 10 percent in September and October. Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick star in the animated musical, which placed No. 2 Friday with $12.3 million from 4,060 locations for a pleasing $44 million debut, thanks to a pent-up demand for family films.
Trolls, based on the classic children’s doll, centers on two trolls who must save their village from destruction by the Bergens, who love to eat the little creatures. Timberlake served as an executive producer of the soundtrack, which includes his original hit song “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
Hacksaw Ridge earned $5.2 million Friday from 2,886 theaters for a projected $14 million-$15 domestic debut, a solid start for a tough, R-rated war film. The movie, holding at No. 3, stars Andrew Garfield as a U.S. Army medic who became the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Battle of Okinawa, despite refusing to take up arms because of his religious beliefs.
The $40 million pic was financed independently before Lionsgate picked up U.S. rights.
Two things all three movies share in common — an A CinemaScore. Doctor Strange sports a 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, followed by 87 percent for Hacksaw Ridge and 74 percent for Trolls.
At the specialty box office, Jeff Nichols’ interracial drama Loving is looking to post the top theater average of the weekend as it opens four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. From Focus Features, the awards contender is projected to gross $195,000 for an stellar average of $48,750.
Loving stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as married couple Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and a black woman, who spent nine years fighting for the right to live in Virginia before the U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, invalidated state laws forbidding interracial marriages.
Elsewhere, specialty title Moonlight continues to impress in its third weekend as it expands into a total of 83 theaters. From A24, the drama, about a young gay black man struggling to come out, is projected to place No. 11 with $1.3 million and a theater average of $15,533.
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