Exhibitors are holding out for a hero this weekend, and that caped wonder is Disney/Marvel’s Doctor Strange, who is expected to save the fall box office from its atrocious 10% lag from the same post-Labor Day-to-Halloween period a year ago. Doctor Strange is the second live-action Marvel title after Thor: The Dark World to play the late fall season, specifically November, and it’s looking to make $65M to potentially mid-$70M over three days at 3,882 venues.
Already, Doctor Strange is headed to $100M overseas after an $87.7M opening weekend powered by 33 offshore markets. China and Brazil will debut day-and-date with U.S./Canada.
Non-Disney distribution chiefs think Doctor Strange‘s projected weekend is a spectacular start for a Marvel secondary character, though it’s lower than Thor 2‘s $85.7M opening. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy proved that the label’s less-popular comic book characters aren’t bastards at the B.O.; when thoughtfully constructed, they can be carried on the shoulders of the brand alone. That James Gunn-directed 2014 title notched a previous August opening record (prior to this summer’s Suicide Squad) of $94.3M with a final cume of $333.1M. Ant-Man was another property from the deeper Marvel universe, and it saw a July 2015 launch last of $57.2M. The pic’s intensity factor was lower than other PG-13 superhero titles, thus pulling in families at close to 30%. Movies starring single Marvel characters Captain America and Thor started their weekends stateside with $65M and $66M, respectively.
Directed by Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon-turned-sorcerer of several dimensions. Much like Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War earlier this year, the critics well in advance already have blessed Doctor Strange, with a 91% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score. The film will have all the help pricing-wise from 3,530 3D locations, 379 Imax and 516 PLF (Disney’s biggest footprint in that format to date) as well as 189 D-Box locations.
Essentially, the higher Doctor Strange goes in its weekend ticket sales, the more it will dent the competition. Currently, DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls via 20th Century Fox is looking at mid- to high-$30Ms at an estimated 4,000 locations. If Doctor Strange stays in the $60M range, some feel Trolls might creep past $40M. DWA has been tubthumping Trolls for some time, starting at CinemaCon and Cannes with Anna Kendrick, star/music producer Justin Timberlake, directors Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn and studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg in tow. Thursday previews start at 5 PM. Trolls is based on the dolls made by Danish woodworker Thomas Dam. In April 2013, DWA acquired the Trolls intellectual property to make a movie. Trolls also has a healthy RT score of 79% heading into the weekend.
Lastly, there’s Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge from Lionsgate — which, word has it, rivals Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan in bloody World War II battle scenes. The pic, which has been gaining critical momentum since its Venice Film Festival premiere, is looking at $12M on the low-end and upper-teens on the high end. It has a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score, and it’s expected to play very well among the faith-based, Midwest and Southern audiences much like Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken touched a nerve with that crowd, opening to $30.6M during Christmas 2014. Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of the Army Medic Desmond Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa and was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. Gibson’s last directorial, 2006’s Apocalypto, opened in the No. 1 spot at the B.O. with $15M and amassed $120.6M worldwide from a $40M production cost, which also happens to be the reported estimated budget for Hacksaw Ridge.