November 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

November 3, 2016


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2. Doctor Strange (November 4th)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe returns with Doctor Strange. Stephen Strange, who is indeed a doctor, of nose and throat and the mystic arts, began his august career as the star of a comic book series in the 1960s, entered television in a 1970s film, and was ubiquitous on the great Marvel cartoons of the 1990s. He has been tantalizingly teased by name-drop in one or two Marvel comics films, exciting those who cared to be excited, if I could use the standard lawyerly language I usually use to mask my contempt. Other than Thor (which is really kind of science fiction), this is the only Marvel film to delve blatantly into the supernatural, a realm that will have to co-exist with the nuts and bolts science (okay, "science") of the other characters once Doctor Strange inevitably joins the Avengers.

As usual with Marvel movies, we don't get the same kind of awe-inspiring pre-release mystery we get with, say, a Madea film, because Marvel movies are always screened weeks in advance (sometimes with good reason; the film has already opened in several dozen countries). And yes, reviews, yet again, are uniformly positive, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring a 90% ("one of the best origin stories ever," "his British accent is almost totally undetectable," "will not cure your insomnia," and all the rest). In fact, 14 films in, not one Marvel Cinematic Universe film has ever received a Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a fact you can make of what you will ("such perfection is creepy" is my take); reviews for next year's big Marvel film are therefore predictable ("he finally gets Spider-Man just right," "his British accent is almost totally undetectable," and so on).

The mass audience may not know Doctor Strange, but that was true for Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, and look how those turned out (really well). There was some whitewashing controversy about the casting of the good doctor's mentor, originally a Tibetan mystic (Tilda Swinton turned out not to be Asian). None of that will dent the film's prospects, which will match those other first-time Marvel openings, I think, or at the very least exceed them.

Opening weekend: $100 million / Total gross: $300 million


3. Moana (November 23rd)
This new Disney animation (sans Pixar) stars Dwayne Johnson as a Polynesian deity lost to time, and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho as his young ward, joining him on adventures through what looks like a meticulously drawn Pacific setting of land and sea. The film's directed by old school hands Ron Clements and John Musker, who previously helmed The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Princess and the Frog, and here make what looks like a seamless transition to CGI for the first time (say, while we're on topic, did we really have to completely give up on the traditional animation format? That seemed a bit rash). For some odd reason or the other, the film reminds me of a mix of Lilo & Stitch and Frozen, combining the Polynesian locations of the former with the surprisingly lucrative late November release of the latter.

The film is also not only a musical, but one with songs co-written by Broadway stalwart Lin-Manuel Miranda, which means that anyone, myself included, who is distracted by the month's live action fantasies is underestimating this film's potential. Even with snow outside, I think this sunny film can play well all through the holidays, especially with the lack of upcoming competition for its target audience. As everyone always says in an unfortunate yet inevitable outburst of punning, The Rock is on a roll.

Opening weekend: $62 million (five-day) / Total gross: $300 million

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