The film industry has needed a Doctor for about three months, and it certainly got the special treatment this weekend.
Strange Days Indeed at the Box Office
By John Hamann
November 6, 2016
The box office has been a desert since Suicide Squad opened on August 5th, with the biggest opener in the interim being Sully's $35 million, which was earned over an early September weekend. Through October, no film opened to more than $30 million, as mainstream choices failed to reach blockbuster status. We hit a low last weekend when Inferno opened to $14.9 million, but because of that failure, the box office blossom opened up this weekend, making room for some very big films.
New releases this frame include Doctor Strange, the heavily marketed Marvel release that people have been excited about for months, a new kids' flick in Trolls, adapted from the popular toy line, and Hacksaw Ridge, a war movie from Mel Gibson that should appeal to the faith-based crowd. The three openers did what we haven't seen since August - they combined for an opening weekend over $140 million.
Our number one film should be no secret to anyone, because Doctor Strange has been pencilled in for this weekend's top spot for months. Marvel (and Disney) are back in a very big way, as they are able to successfully introduce a somewhat secondary character into the Marvel Universe. Doctor Strange got the party started strongly on Thursday, pulling in a massive $9.4 million from evening screenings alone. On Thursday, Doctor Strange grossed more than all the openers on the September 16th weekend - Blair Witch, Bridget Jones and Snowden - three high profile films that opened between $8 and $9.5 million. Doctor Strange beat expectations on Thursday night. Was it a one-off or would that success replicate itself over the entire weekend?
The combined Friday gross plus Thursday preview came in at a massive $32.6 million, which is better than all opening weekend grosses since The Magnificent Seven debuted on September 23 to $34.7 million. Doctor Strange had a bigger opening day than films like X-Men: Apocalypse ($26.3 million on the way to a $65.8 million weekend), Thor: The Dark World ($31.8 million opening day/$85.7 million weekend), Thor ($25.5 million first day/$65.7 million weekend) and Captain America: The First Avenger ($25.7 million first day/$65 million weekend). While it didn't quite reach the Guardians of the Galaxy's first day of $37.8 million, that one was released on a prime August weekend, whereas this is November. Outside of the Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games franchises, no film has opened beyond $100 million in this month.
Over the three-day weekend, Doctor Strange proved to be a monster. The Benedict Cumberbatch release earned a massive $85 million, just missing the top 10 November openers of all-time, where Skyfall sits in tenth after earning $88.4 million over its opening frame. Compared to other Marvel movies, Doctor Strange sits between X-Men: Apocalypse ($65.8 million) and X-Men Wolverine ($85.1 million), and just off Marvel's other November opener, Thor: The Dark World's $85.7 million, but that of course was a sequel with a very established character.
Marvel and Disney must be thrilled with this result, especially after a huge overseas debut last weekend, which came in at $87.7 million and now sits at a massive $240 million. Doctor Strange cost Marvel and Disney $165 million to make, and with that hefty marketing budget, it will need at least $450-500 million in order to see a profit. That amount will be no problem - Doctor Strange should still be in the top 12 come Christmas day, and will do quite well over the lead-up to the holiday.
Marvel was not only successful at the box office - it's also a hit with critics and audiences. Doctor Strange is a wonderful 90% fresh, with 197 positive reviews out of a possible 218 at the time of this writing. Marvel's reviews have always been excellent, but this is in the same ballpark as Captain America: Civil War (90% fresh), Guardians of the Galaxy (91% fresh), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (89%). The Cinemascore came in at an A, and that only spells legs, legs, legs. Doctor Strange should be a top four film come Thanksgiving, and there appears to be no reason this can't earn $250 million at the domestic box office. Thor: The Dark World may have had a similar opening weekend and "only" earned $206 million at the North American box office, but that one was 66% fresh, and the Cinemascore was an A- (but I think we all know the difference between Thor: The Dark World and something like Captain America: Civil War).
The overseas gross is going to be massive. Star Benedict Cumberbatch will keep overseas awareness high, as he and Keira Knightley took The Imitation Game to $142 million overseas, while it was unable to crack the $100 million mark in North America. The Star Trek franchise doubled its overseas gross when comparing the rebooted Star Trek with Star Trek Into Darkness, and Cumberbatch would be a big reason for the lift from $128 million overseas with the original, to $238 million for the sequel. Fellow Brit Tilda Swinton is no slouch either, and neither is Canadian Rachel McAdams. Mads Mikkelsen was a casting coup as well, as his film The Hunt earned only in the tens of thousands stateside but in the millions overseas.
Simply put, Marvel earns another home run with Doctor Strange, and Disney continues a white hot 2016, which has included Finding Dory ($1 billion plus worldwide), Captain America: Civil War ($1.1 billion worldwide), Jungle Book (just shy of $1 billion worldwide) and Zootopia ($1 billion worldwide). Doctor Strange likely won't hit those heights, but who's going to complain about three-quarters of a billion for this one when they have another Star Wars film coming up.
Our number two film is no slouch, either, as Trolls opens decently for DreamWorks Animation and Fox. Trolls got started with just short of a million on Thursday night, but considering that this one is playing to the tots, the Thursday preview number was in line with expectations. The Friday was much bigger at an all-inclusive $12.3 million, which means the Thursday take was less than 10% of the Friday, whereas Doctor Strange's was almost 30%. Trolls was able to turn its "true Friday" into a weekend take of $45.6 million, a not bad score when considering it played next to Doctor Strange. That is similar to the tally that The Peanuts Movie earned over the same weekend in 2015, when Spectre led with $70 million, and The Peanuts Movie finished second with $44 million. The Peanuts Movie went on to earn $130 million stateside and $250 million worldwide, not quite enough against its $100 million budget.
Trolls cost more than The Peanuts Movie to make, with the budget coming in at $125 million, which means it needs to earn a heavy $375 million worldwide. Can it make it? Reviews were decent at 74% fresh, but it didn't see Pixar-style critical marks. The Cinemascore came in at an A, the same score that Inside Out earned, but on the other hand, also the same score as The Good Dinosaur. Given the opening, we can't expect much more than $150 million stateside, which means overseas revenues will need to offer up a large $225 million. It has already earned $100 million plus overseas, so it will be close, and with decent numbers, could be a down payment on a lucrative franchise. It could also just end up a massive hit, like Madagascar, an original that earned $193 million stateside and $339 million overseas.
Third spot goes to the enigma amongst the three openers, Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge, starring Andrew Garfield. It has been a decade since Mel Gibson brought Apocalypto to the screen, earning $120 million worldwide against a $40 million budget, despite the film not starring English-speaking actors. Following time off after his drunken rant many moons ago, Gibson is back, directing a faith-based war film, or a faith-based film masquerading as a war movie. Whether it is Gibson or the faith-based crowd, Hacksaw Ridge opened where it needed to in order to financially. Hacksaw Ridge earned $14.8 million over the weekend following a $5.2 million Friday. Keeping in mind that Doctor Strange and Trolls gobbled up 8,000 screens, it's tough to get noticed on a weekend like that. To have this kind of debut amongst the noise has to be good news.
Hacksaw Ridge received solid reviews, earning an 87% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and a 93% score from "top critics" (as decided by the site). The Cinemascore was also excellent at an A, which should create some legs going forward. Mel Gibson has a big enough name overseas to make an impact, especially with a movie about World War II. Gibson's film The Beaver earned less than a million stateside, but earned almost $7 million overseas, mostly on his name alone. Hacksaw Ridge begins a slow rollout overseas this weekend and hits more markets as Christmas approaches. Hacksaw Ridge was made for $40 million, so it does have a bit of an uphill climb after this opening frame.
Boo! A Madea Halloween finishes fourth after consecutive first place finishes the last two weekends. With Halloween in the rear-view mirror, it's no surprise there is a giant drop for Madea this weekend. Boo! earned $7.8 million in its third frame and fell a scary 55%. Tyler Perry gets a film beyond the $60 million domestic mark this weekend, as the total sits at $65 million - that's the first time since 2012's Madea's Witness Protection, which finished with $65.7 million.
Inferno sees an ugly fall after opening to a terrible $14.9 million last weekend. In its second frame, the Ron Howard flick fell 58%, earning only $6.3 million. Inferno is officially in ugly mode now, as it has a gross to date of $26.1 million against a $75 million budget. As expected, though, it is getting a giant assist overseas, as it has already earned more than $150 million over there.
The Accountant is sixth, and didn't get punished nearly as badly as Inferno, despite all of the new product this weekend. In its fourth weekend, the Ben Affleck starrer earned another $6 million and declined 30%. The $44 million Warner Bros. release has now earned $70.9 million stateside, and has another $38 million away from North America.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back has another tough weekend. The Tom Cruise film earned $5.6 million this weekend and dropped 42%,, following a 58% drop last weekend. The $60 million Paramount release has now earned $49.2 million. It has a crossed the $100 million worldwide mark, though, as the overseas gross has reached $63 million.
Ouija: Origin of Evil is eighth. After earning $7.1 million last weekend, the spooker fell 44% to $4 million in its third frame. The good news is that this one cost Universal only $9 million to make, so a $31.4 million domestic gross and another $33 million overseas will leave this one in fine shape.
Ninth is The Girl on the Train, the latest from my girlfriend, Emily Blunt. The Girl earned another $2.8 million and declined 37%. The $45 million film has earned $70.7 million domestically and $140 million worldwide.
Tenth is Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which has now been in the top ten for six weekends. This time around, the Tim Burton film earned $2.1 million and dropped 48%. The domestic total has hit $83.3 million, and the overseas is at $170 million, but it's not enough for a film with a $110 million price tag (plus marketing).
Overall this weekend, the box office is back. The top 12 films earned a powerful $182.2 million, taking down last year's $151.4 million total. Next weekend, Doctor Strange and friends will face off against three more releases; however, none of them is getting more than 2,300 screens. The leader of the pack is The Arrival with Amy Adams and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Joining The Arrival is Almost Christmas, a Will Packer production with Gabrielle Union and Omar Epps, and Shut In with Naomi Watts, a scary flick being released two weeks after Halloween.