Box Office: ‘Doctor Strange’ to Ward Off Newcomers ‘Arrival’ and ‘Almost Christmas’

Dave McNary
Variety

Marvel-Disney’s “Doctor Strange” will again dominate the post-election box office with at least $40 million, easily topping openings by Paramount’s sci-fi film “Arrival” and Universal’s comedy “Almost Christmas.”

The new titles are expected to battle for third place with as much as $15 million each while EuropaCorp’s Naomi Watts thriller “Shut In” is pegged for an opening of about $7 million. DreamWorks Animation’s second weekend of “Trolls” should come in second with about $20 million.

“Doctor Strange” opened above expectations last weekend in the U.S. with $85 million, then added on $6.2 million on Monday. The Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle has also performed impressively internationally with more than $240 million in two weeks.

“Trolls,” handled by Fox, generated a solid opening weekend with $46.6 million domestically and tacked on $2.5 million on Monday. The cartoon comedy has gone past $100 million internationally after a mid-October launch.

Alien-arrival saga “Arrival,” directed by Denis Villenueve (“Sicario”) and starring Amy Adams as a linguistics expert, will be playing at approximately 2,200 locations. Paramount is forecasting a launch in the low-to-mid teens — comparable to last fall’s $15 million opening of Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” which wound up with $72 million by the end of its run.

Paramount acquired U.S., Canadian and Chinese distribution rights for “Arrival” at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The film was financed by FilmNation Entertainment and Lava Bear Films, and carries a $47 million budget.

Critics have given “Arrival” strong reviews and its Rotten Tomato score is currently 98%.

Universal will release “Almost Christmas” in approximately 2,372 theaters in North America. David E. Talbert directs from his own script about a beloved patriarch who asks his family for a holiday season gift — to get along and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another.

The cast includes Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Danny Glover, Romany Malco, Mo’Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Jessie Usher and DC Young Fly. “Almost Christmas” is tracking strongest with African American audiences, specifically among females, with the studio aiming for strong playability through the holiday season. The film was made for a budget of $17 million.

Will Packer, whose resume includes the “Think Like a Man” and “Ride Along” franchises, is producing. The studio’s marketing campaign has featured a special episode on “Family Feud” hosted by Steve Harvey and events at the American Black Film Festival and Essence Festival.

“Shut In” stars Naomi Watts as a psychologist trying to save a child — played by “Room” star Jacob Tremblay — during a New England snowstorm. It’s opening 2,050 locations.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said that the weekend should see multiplexes generating solid business as customers look to put the election behind them. The lagging fall box office as of Monday had hit $1.33 billion, off 5% from the same period last year, according to comScore.

“In the post-election period, the allure of the movies becomes even more pronounced as the need for escapist, immersive entertainment will likely manifest itself in a movie theater version of post-trauma therapy,” he said.

“This weekend’s crop of movies led by the box office hit ‘Doctor Strange’ will benefit from audiences looking to find solace in movies as diverse as ‘Trolls’ and ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ as well as newcomers ‘Almost Christmas,’ ‘Arrival’ and ‘Shut In,’ which should power strong results in this first weekend after the election and benefit upcoming films this holiday season.”

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