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Box Office Report: 'Doctor Strange' Tops the Debuts of Thor, Ant-Man and Captain Amer…

Here’s your estimated 3-day box office returns (new releases bolded):

1. Doctor Strange – $84.9 million ($84.9 million total)

2. Trolls – $45.6 million ($45.6 million total)

3. Hacksaw Ridge – $14.7 million ($14.7 million total)

4. Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween – $7.8 million ($64.9 million total)

5. Inferno – $6.2 million ($26.0 million total)

6. The Accountant – $5.9 million ($70.8 million total)

7. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – $5.5 million ($49.2 million total)

8. Ouija: Origin of Evil – $3.9 million ($31.2 million total)

9. The Girl on the Train – $2.7 million ($70.7 million total)

10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – $2.1 million ($83.3 million total)


The Big Stories

The fall season in terms of cinema box office is over. Now rises the gleam of the holiday season with its year-end blockbusters, family dog whistles and films with their eyes on the golden prize. It is yet again a time for heroes of all kinds, wizards in front and behind the camera as well as the obvious rebels who will stand apart from all the next few months. It all starts now, though, with a number of films, both big and small, this weekend generating terrific critical numbers, even better ones from the public (straight A’s across the board) and, most importantly, the figures that really matter to the studios are very solid.

Is The Villain Doctor Normal?

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So Doctor Strange may not be one of the Avengers… yet, nor Spider-Man or even a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. But he’s also not the Hulk, Ant-Man or one of the Fantastic Four. No he is most certainly his own thing. “Trippy” as the kids might say and critics have certainly fallen for him as well bestowing a lofty 90% rating at Rotten Tomatoes on him. That’s higher than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and even Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe – which does not include your Spider-Man, X-Men films and Deadpool films – Doctor Strange is the 14th film and it’s $82 million opening ranks it 10th on that list, ahead of just the first Captain America, Ant-Man and the Norton Incredible Hulk.

This is hardly an insult at Doctor Strange considering just how successful these Marvel films have been. Guardians of the Galaxy was also a very fan-centric property and it opened to $94 million, still only good for 8th place, and that was over the summer. (Expect Vol. 2 to see a Pirates of the Caribbean-like bump next year for its second go-round.) Studio tracking once again conveniently underestimated its potential giving it a wide birth of a $55-75 million start.

But just how good are Strange’s numbers?

Disney can certainly take solace that their $165 million production has already grossed a healthy $132 million overseas so it is well on its way to turning an expected profit. But back to the U.S. of A.

Since 1998 there have been just 23 films released in November to receive an “A” from Cinemascore. (This weekend just added another three.) The bulk of those films opened to under $60 million, so to give a complete average of those 23 would not be very on point. (If we take the films that started with over $10 million, the average multiple is 3.81 if you are curious.) Doctor Strange is more in the realm of Skyfall and the first Harry Potter film, though, which had multiples of 3.44 and 3.51, respectively. That would put Doctor Strange roughly around $292 million, though that seems like it might be a bit high if audiences don’t respond to the film’s “trippy” vibe the way some critics have. (One of the film’s writers, Robert C. Cargill, used to be one for Ain’t-It-Cool-News.)

After all, Thor: The Dark World opened to $85 million in this same slot and only managed a 2.40 multiple to finish with $206 million. Scott Derrickson’s film should go roughly unchallenged in its second weekend despite all the critical praise for Arrival. A 55-58% drop to $35-38 million would be about the norm, but a little under would not be the end of the world as long as it gets to $300 million on the international side which appears to be in its sights. It has made $240.4 million overseas and $325 million worldwide so far. Over $24 million of that is reportedly as exclusively from its 1,000+ IMAX engagements.

Conscientious Objectors and the Trolls Who Love Them

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Lacking the subtext of Storks that parents evidently did not want to have to explain to their kids, Fox/Dreamworks’ Trolls managed to get off to promising fashion. For a film about Trolls that is.

The first weekend of November has had its share of animated films to help kick off the holiday season and here is where it ranks among them:

The Incredibles ($70.4), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($63.1), Monsters Inc. ($62.5), Big Hero 6 ($56.2), Wreck-It Ralph ($49.0), Megamind ($46.0), Trolls ($45.6), The Peanuts Movie ($44.2), Chicken Little ($40.0), Bee Movie ($38.0)

The average multiple of those nine other films is a solid 3.48, which upon first estimate would give Trolls $158 million. In other words behind A Bug’s Life and The Polar Express but ahead of Megamind and A Christmas Carol. The $125 million production (with a 74% RT score, just ahead of The Secret Life of Pets) has already grossed nearly $69 million internationally so if we grant it that estimate it will still need to find an additional $159 million to break even.

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Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge may not have as high of a wall to climb to find success, but its path may be a little rockier. Whether you have forgiven Mel Gibson or written him off completely, the verdict is most definitely out on his skills behind the camera. Through four films as a director he has one Best Picture winner (Braveheart) and one unparalleled blockbuster in The Passion of the Christ. That film actually drew the most critical opposition (49%) but his others have all received “fresh” status and Hacksaw Ridge is his most positive yet at 87%. “Say what you will about Mel Gibson but the S.O.B. knows story structure,” as they said in South Park’s Imaginationland.

The general moviegoing public who may not be as quick to separate the art from the man have been even more favorable to Gibson. The fully Mayan-dialect Apocalypto was the lowest rated film (B+) and Braveheart only received an “A-.” But The Passion of the Christ and its subtitled dead language received the rare “A+” and both The Man Without a Face and, now, Hacksaw Ridge got a solid “A.” Lionsgate is likely pleased with a $14.7 million start for a film that could have had even more conscientious objectors to it. That is slightly below the $15 million that Apocalypto started with but there is a good chance that once people began to spread the word over how good it is it could exceed the 3.38 multiple of the Mayan chase film.

It is a $40 million production so it’s not going to cover itself until the film reaches nine digits worldwide. However, Gibson’s films have done fine business outside the U.S. from Apocalypto ($69.7 million) to Braveheart ($134.8 million) to The Passion of the Christ ($241.1 million). If it can just follow the path of the Mayans, Lionsgate can look to Mel Gibson for saving them from yet another red mark on their books.

Tales of the Top Ten

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The three newbies knocked all the returning champs (and many losers) down a peg this week. Mel Gibson is not Lionsgate’s only potential savior as Tyler Perry has returned to them with his biggest hit in years. By Tuesday Boo! A Madea Halloween will be the filmmaker’s second highest-grossing film ever, which has led the studio to announce they will producing another two Perry films including one with Madea. Now who will save us?

Certainly not Jack Reacher, whose sequel continues to drop. It has not reached $50 million yet in the States and while it may still pass the $58 million of Far & Away, it looks unlikely to even hit the $63 million that Risky Business mustered up all the way back in 1983. In other words, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is going to be the lowest grossing Tom Cruise film (with him as the lead) since 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut. Can it still find the additional $68 million it needs to break even or will Paramount be looking at another loss on a year they would truly like to go back on.

Tom Hanks’ Inferno continues to put up paltry numbers here in the U.S. With just under $27 million so far this is looking like Hanks’ weakest starring vehicle since 2004’s The Ladykillers. On the plus side, with over $159 million in overseas sales it only needs another $40 million to break even for Sony, but rest assured that this is one franchise that is about to be put to rest for good.

Of the remaining films in the Top Ten, only Universal’s Ouija: Origin of Evil has found its way into profit so far though

The Girl on the Train is only about $7 million away itself. That would potentially make Kevin Hart: What Now? the first red mark on the studio’s docket since this summer’s Warcraft (a streak that included The Purge: Election Year, The Secret Life of Pets, Jason Bourne and Bridget Jones’s Baby.)

Fox, meanwhile, may have a hit with Trolls but may be taking a $30+ million loss on Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Warner Bros., clearly hoping to do much better with the forthcoming spinoff franchise of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, is still waiting for the books to go black on The Accountant, but things are looking up. It’s U.S. numbers have been solid with over $70 million to date and should be over $80 by the time it’s done. Its international haul went from $10.8 to $21.3 million last week and this week it is up to $38.5 million. That still leaves another $60 million it needs to cook up to recoup its $84 million cost.

Then outside of the top ten we have Jeff Nichols’ Loving opening in four theaters. At this point any opening of its type will be compared to Moonlight’s $402,075. Do not overlook Loving’s $169,000 start, though, as it is the third best on such a small number of screens (just behind The Lobster.) It is also almost equal to Nichols’ Midnight Special, which opened to $190,012 on five screens back in March. Focus should get on rolling this awards contender out sooner than later.

A24’s gave another expansion to Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight this weekend going from 36 to 83 theaters and it finished 11th with a cool $1.3 million. This is exceeding the pace of A24’s The Lobster by about $1.5 million when that film had expanded to 116 screens in its third weekend and finished with over $9 million. Woody Allen’s Café Society jumped to 565 theaters in weekend #3 and is less than a million ahead of Moonlight. We will continue to monitor its success here. You can get out to contribute to it and see what everyone is raving about.

– Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on WGN Radio with Nick Digilio as well as on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.

[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]

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