Box Office: 'Doctor Strange' Opens to Spellbinding $85M in U.S., Hits $325M Globally
The Justin Timberlake-voiced 'Trolls' and director Mel Gibson's 'Hacksaw Ridge' also click with audiences in welcome news for Hollywood after a tough fall; 'Loving' and 'Moonlight' prosper at the specialty box office.
Doctor Strange opened to a far better-than-expected $85 million from 3,882 theaters at the North American box office, adding another franchise to the expanding Marvel Studios and Disney superhero universe and putting the movie's early global total at a magical $325.4 million.
Overseas, the pic earned another $118.7 million this weekend — including $44.3 million in China, the top debut for the first installment in any superhero series — for a foreign cume of $240.4 million after debuting in select markets a week ahead of its U.S. debut. Prerelease tracking in North America suggested the event film would open between $65 million-$70 million.
Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the lesser-known superhero Stephen Strange, gives Disney five of the 10 top openings of 2016 so far and is another coup for Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige and Disney's marketing team. It also beat the first installments in the Thor, Captain America and Ant-Man franchises. Males fueled the film (58 percent), while 57 percent of moviegoers were between the ages of 13 and 34.
In the film, Cumberbatch plays a top surgeon who, after his hands are injured in a car accident, seeks out the help of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a master of the mystical arts. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams also star in Doctor Strange, which marks the biggest domestic opening for all four actors.
"The halo that comes from Marvel Cinematic Universe allows for the introduction of new or less well-known characters, and allows Marvel to take chances others might not," said Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis.
Doctor Strange cost $165 million to produce and is the first movie to play in more than 1,000 Imax theaters, which contributed $24.2 million of the global weekend earnings, a November record that includes $12.2 million domestically.
Overall, 47 percent of the gross came from 3D screens.
Boasting glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore, Doctor Strange certainly wasn't the weekend's only success story in a needed morale boost for Hollywood after revenue tumbled 10 percent in September and October. Animated event film Trolls and Mel Gibson's World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge came in on the high end expectations after likewise scoring strong reviews and A CinemaScores.
DreamWorks Animation and Fox's Trolls took second place with $45.6 million from 4,060 theaters. Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick star in the animated musical, based on the classic children's doll. Timberlake also served as an executive producer of the soundtrack, which includes his original hit song "Can't Stop the Feeling."
"This is a feel-good movie, starting with Justin's song," said Fox distribution president Chris Aronson. "And with all the negativity that's been gripping our country, this is an antidote to that and puts a smile on your face. Also, it was a well-designed and well-executed marketing campaign."
Trolls is the first DreamWorks Animation movie released sine Universal closed its deal to buy Jeffrey Katzenberg's company. That means while Fox will get its usual distribution fee, the revenue will go to Universal via DWA.
Overseas, Trolls earned $30 million in its third weekend as it expanded into a total of 67 markets for a foreign cume of $104 million for a global tally of $149.6 million.
Hacksaw Ridge followed in third place with $14.8 million from 2,886 theaters, a solid start for a tough, R-rated war film. It is Gibson's first directorial outing since Apocalypto a decade ago (that movie debuted to $15 million).
Hoping to win over both Oscar voters and faith-based moviegoers, Hacksaw Ridge stars Andrew Garfield as a U.S. Army medic who became the first conscientious objector in history to win the Medal of Honor after staying behind during the Battle of Okinawa and saving more than 75 lives, despite refusing to take up arms because of his religious beliefs. The film played well in most parts of the country, versus only working among faith-based audiences.
"It's playing to a general audience," said Lionsgate distribution chief David Spitz. The $40 million pic was financed independently before Lionsgate picked up U.S. rights.
As awards season intensifies, Focus Features debuted Jeff Nichols' interracial drama Loving in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York. The movie posted the top theater average of the weekend, an estimated $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 at the specialty box office, A24's awards contender Moonlight continued to impress when expanding into a total of 83 theaters in its third weekend. The drama moved up the chart to No. 11, grossing $1.3 million for a theater average of $16,053 — one of the best of the weekend — and a domestic total of $3.1 million.