Disney/Marvel’s Benedict Cumberbatch-starring Doctor Strange debuts in 32 markets — about 45% of its international footprint — this week, and one frame ahead of the domestic (and China) release. It’s been six months since the last MCU superheroes roamed the globe with Captain America: Civil War capturing a 2016 high of $1.15B worldwide after its April start. Doctor Strange is a different sort of Marvel beast, making his first major leap from the page to the screen with the Scott Derrickson-helmed mystical adventure.
Doctor Strange enters the international dimension this session in several key majors including the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Australia and Korea. It’s also playing on 211 IMAX screens and has over an hour of footage formatted for IMAX 3D screens.
The range for Strange this overseas debut weekend is pegged at $55M on the low end to about $60M, with aggressive estimates coming closer to $70M. That’s roughly the same spread that the Doctor had when he first came on domestic tracking. Similar to the situation domestically, even if the movie hits the low end, it will be the best international opening thus far this autumn (Inferno currently leads the season in offshore debuts with a $50M start earlier this month).
In the same markets and at current exchange rates, Doctor Strange comp Ant-Man opened to $56M in 2015 ($339.2M intl cume historic rates/$324M current) while Guardians Of The Galaxy did $61M at open ($440.1M intl cume historic/$359M current). It’s worth bearing in mind that GOTG had more favorable exchange rates which had dropped by the time of Ant-Man; they are significantly worse now in the UK.
Both of those films introduced new characters to a wider audience, and both were summer movies with slightly different release patterns. Their cousin, Thor: The Dark World, is the only MCU pic to have opened in this similar fall corridor, hammering out a $109.4M start at 2013 rates ($82M in today’s dollars) and legging to a lower multiple. The more recent films had an A CinemaScore domestically. Doctor Strange’s grade isn’t up yet, although the movie is currently at a trippy 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Stephen Strange, a supremely gifted — and arrogant — neurosurgeon who suffers severe damage to his hands in a car accident. From there, he embarks on a journey of healing and becomes a powerful sorcerer under the tutelage of a mystic known as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Also starring are Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Cumberbatch has overseas successes under his belt including his Oscar-nominated turn in 2014’s The Imitation Game which became a bonafide offshore hit with $142M+. Likewise, 12 Years A Slave grossed $131M overseas. Franchise pic Star Trek Into Darkness is his biggest international box office (live action) at about $239M. But one factor not to be discounted with Doctor Strange is the actor’s growing global popularity thanks to Sherlock.
The Marvel fanbase should be augmented by acolytes of the high-functioning sociopath. In China — where Strange releases November 4 — the last season of Sherlock was seen by 98M viewers. The theatrical release of the holiday special grossed over $24M in the Middle Kingdom in January. In Korea, which could end up being this weekend’s biggest Strange market, the Sherlock special made nearly $9M and sold more tickets than this year’s Star Trek Beyond.
Returning to the comps, China was the largest offshore market on each followed by a mix of Russia, the UK, Korea, Mexico, France, Germany, Brazil and Australia. Cumberbatch and Swinton kicked off a global Strange tour in Hong Kong in mid-October with director Derrickson and Marvel’s Kevin Feige in tow. Members of the cast are currently in Europe attending premieres and events (the London premiere was last night).
Meanwhile, there are a number of high-profile movies which will continue at overseas turnstiles this weekend. Notably, Inferno and Trolls move into China. But the biggest prescription is likely to be written by the Doctor.