Strange Days Indeed at the Box Office
By John Hamann
November 6, 2016
The film industry has needed a Doctor for about three months, and it certainly got the special treatment this weekend.
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.