Disney is currently No. 1 at the 2016 box office this year with $2.1 billion, roughly $617M apart from Warner Bros at No. 2, and that gap is about to get even wider in the fourth quarter. Disney kicks off the first of three holiday titan tentpoles November 4 with Marvel’s Doctor Strange, followed by its animated feature Moana on November 23, and, of course, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16 which dropped its official second trailer today.
Directed by Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon-turned-sorcerer of several dimensions. The film hit the tracking boards this morning, with projections in the $55M-$75M range with a strong interest across the board, but of course it’s first choice among men under/over 25 at 19% and 18%, respectively. The anticipation is that tracking will grow as we get closer to the release date.
Even if Doctor Strange arrives at the low end, that will still be the best opening we’ve seen so far this autumn. Following Labor Day, U.S./Canada ticket sales have been off 10% compared to the same period last year.
Doctor Strange is another title from the deeper Marvel universe, outside The Avengers halo of Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America. As such, this makes projections tricky, and that’s why the gap is so wide on Doctor Strange. Before Guardians Of The Galaxy opened, some thought the property to be risky with some protagonists including a raccoon, a green alien woman and a talking tree But then the film shocked everyone with a then-August-opening record of $94.3M and legged out to $333.1M stateside. Last summer, Marvel launched Ant-Man, which posted a decent opening of $57.2M, but churned out a magnificent $517M worldwide. Doctor Strange marks the second time Marvel has played the fourth quarter of the year, and the second time in this early November corridor. Previously, the sequel Thor: The Dark World played during November 8-10, 2013 earning $85.7M, an opening that bested its first chapter by 30%.
Tickets for Doctor Strange went on sale Monday, and similar to Guardians during the summer of 2014, Disney also showed off a portion of the film to fans in Imax theaters on that day. Also opening on November 4 is DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls via 20th Century Fox, which also came on tracking hot with a projected $40M opening. DWA has a history of appealing to families during early November with titles such as Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($63M), Megamind ($46M), and Bee Movie ($38M). Lionsgate also has for older adults Mel Gibson’s WWII movie Hacksaw Ridge, which has a lot of heat on it coming out of the Venice Film Festival.