By Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter
From Doctor Strange to Trolls to Denis Villeneuve’s new cerebral sci-fi thriller Arrival, movies playing at the North American box office enjoyed a rare collective boost this weekend as consumers flocked to the cinema seemingly looking for escapism following the conclusion of the 2016 presidential election and Donald Trump’s surprise victory.
Arrival, starring Amy Adams, launched with $24 million, while holiday comedy Almost Christmas debuted nicely with $15.7 million. While neither were able to topple holdovers Doctor Strange and Trolls from the top two stops, both — and particularly Arrival — came in ahead of predictions (heading into the weekend, most thought Arrival would make $16 million).
Doctor Strange and Trolls likewise amassed more than predicted, as did a number of other holdovers. All told, domestic box-office revenue was up more than 50 percent over the same weekend last year, although this year had the advantage of Veterans Day falling on Friday.
Marvel and Disney’s Doctor Strange easily stayed at No. 1 in its sophomore outing, falling a mere 49 percent to $44 million. That’s the lowest second-weekend decline for any Marvel Cinematic Universal movie, pushing Doctor Strange‘s domestic total to $153 million and global total to $493 million.
Trolls, from DreamWorks Animation and Fox, dipped 24 percent to $35.1 million, one of the lowest declines for an animated film.
“Two hours of moviegoing is like a massive, immersive group therapy session. No matter what side of the aisle you find yourself, going to the movies is a pastime that everyone can agree crosses party lines and conflicting political ideologies,” said says box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “Veterans Day provided a huge 80% plus bump over the same Friday a year ago and thus the first post-election weekend will see a meteoric jump versus the same frame last year. There is no question that what the world needs now is the great escape that only the movie theater experience can provide.”
Arrival stars Amy Adams as a linguistic expert who is recruited to communicate with aliens who have landed on Earth in mysterious pods. The initial performance of the critically acclaimed movie is a needed win for Paramount.
Paramount worldwide president of marketing and distribution Megan Colligan agrees some sort of post-election bump was at play. “Denis Villeneuve’s film is a potent reminder of what a great movie and great art can do — they can speak to our times and transcend them. This is a special film. The outpouring of love, for the film, Amy, Jeremy and the cast speaks to the power of the movie,” she said.
The film, also starring Jeremy Renner, began its life as an independent film before Paramount pre-bought North American rights to the adult drama for a record-breaking $20 million in 2014. It is produced and financed by FilmNation, Lava Bear and 21 Laps with a script by Eric Heisserer, based on Story of Your Life by author Ted Chiang. The $47 million film also stars Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Mark O’Brien.
Arrival came in third, followed by Almost Christmas, Universal and producer Will Packer’s ensemble comedy. The movie, targeting African-American audiences, stars Danny Glover as a patriarch of a large family that comes together for the holidays and deals with complicated family dynamics.
Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Romany Malco, Mo’Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Jessie Usher and DC Young Fly also star in Almost Christmas, which grabbed an A- CinemaScore.
Even EuropaCorp’s Shut In came in ahead of early projections with an estimated $3.7 million debut. While still considered a bomb, some thought it wouldn’t only earn $2.5 million. The thriller stars Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt and Jacob Tremblay.
Nov. 11, 1:00 p.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Nov. 12, 8:15 a.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Nov. 13, 7:30 a.m. Updated with weekend results.