'Doctor Strange' Poised for Magical, $80+ Million Opening
SATURDAY AM UPDATE: All three of this weekend's new wide releases got off to solid starts, beginning with Disney and Marvel's Doctor Strange, which delivered an estimated $32.6 million on Friday. That's just a hair over the $31.89 million Thor: The Dark World brought in on Friday before opening with $85.7 million, putting Strange on track for an $80+ million debut.

Fox's release of Dreamworks Animation's Trolls pulled in an estimated $12.3 million, on its way to an anticipated $44 million opening weekend.

Lionsgate's Hacksaw Ridge grossed an estimated $5.22 million from 2,886 theaters on Friday. The film is expected to finish around $14+ million for the three-day.

All three of this weekend's new wide releases received an "A" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.

You can check out all the Friday estimates right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a complete weekend wrap-up.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Disney and Marvel Studios' Doctor Strange got off to an excellent start, pulling in $9.4 million from Thursday night previews, topping the $7.1 million Thor: The Dark World brought in from Thursday screenings, which we focused on in our weekend preview below. Additionally, the film has now generated $132.9 million internationally heading into the weekend.

Here's a look at how this compares to other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron - $27.6m preview ($191.27m opening)
  • Captain America: Civil War - $25m preview ($179.14m opening)
  • Marvel's The Avengers - $18.7m from midnight screenings ($207.44m opening)
  • Iron Man 3 - $15.6m preview ($174.14m opening)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy - $11.2m preview ($94.32m opening)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier - $10.3m preview ($95.02m opening)
  • Doctor Strange - $9.4m preview ($???m opening)
  • Iron Man 2 - $7.5m from midnight screenings ($128.12m opening)
  • Thor: The Dark World - $7.1m preview ($85.74m opening)
  • Ant-Man - $6.4m preview ($57.23m opening)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger - $4m from midnight screenings ($65.06m opening)
  • Iron Man - $3.5m preview ($98.6m opening)
  • Thor - $3.25m from midnight screenings ($65.72m opening)
  • The Incredible Hulk - $1.6m from midnight screenings ($55.4m opening)

Moving on, while animated titles don't always hold Thursday night previews, Fox's Trolls is off to a solid start, bringing in $900,000 from early showings in ~3,000 theaters beginning at 5PM on Thursday. That's more than double the $400,000 Wreck-It Ralph brought in in November 2012 before opening with $49 million. A better comp, however, is probably to one of the films we used in our weekend preview, that being The Angry Birds Movie, which brought in $850,000 from Thursday night previews before opening with $38.1 million earlier this year. Another recent release that seems a relatively good comp is the $435,000 Storks brought in on Thursday night before opening with $21.3 million.

For Lionsgate's Hacksaw Ridge, the war drama brought in $750,000 from early screenings in ~2,200 theaters, which includes a small amount generated from Wednesday evening showings from three theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Last weekend Inferno debuted with $800,000 on Thursday before opening with $14.8 million, but to use one of the comparisons from our weekend preview, Fury brought in $1.2 million on Thursday night before opening with $23.7 million.

We will have Friday estimates tomorrow and a full recap of the weekend on Sunday morning. You can read our weekend preview below.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: In the midst of a Fall movie season that has performed ~10% behind last year and an October that played ~8% behind 2015, Disney announced on Wednesday the studio has already posted its biggest year ever at the global box office with $5.85 billion through November 1, surpassing the studios' previous calendar-year record of $5.84 billion, set just last year. Contributing to that figure is the $87.7 million the studios' latest Marvel title, Doctor Strange, brought in from 33 international markets last weekend and has since climbed to $122.3 million overseas. Looking to add additional millions to a record year, Strange will be making a big splash with its release at the domestic box office this weekend and will continue to expand internationally after already opening in Russia this week and will arrive day-and-date with the domestic release in Brazil, China and Norway along with several smaller territories.

Strange is one of three new wide releases ready to turn domestic box office fortunes around this weekend alongside Fox's release of Dreamworks Animation's Trolls in over 4,000 theaters and Lionsgate's release of Mel Gibson's war drama Hacksaw Ridge. This same weekend last year saw the top twelve gross over $150 million, but this weekend's top twelve should top even that, looking to deliver a combined $170+ million, more than double the combined total for last weekend's top twelve.

Starting at the top, Disney and Marvel's Doctor Strange is looking at a #1 finish that should easily eclipse the $70 million Spectre debuted with over the same weekend last year. In fact, it's likely to deliver the largest opening for a single-character introduction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2008's Iron Man ($98.6m).

Since Iron Man, Marvel's single-character intros include Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, which opened with $65 million and $66 million respectively, and last year's release of Ant-Man, which debuted with $57 million. The smaller figure for Ant-Man is understandable given the fact it's something of a unique entry into the MCU compared to those that came before it as well as Doctor Strange. Then, of course, you have Guardians of the Galaxy, which, instead of introducing a single character, introduced a whole team of characters and blasted off with $94.3 million in August of 2014.

Narrowing down the list of comparable titles a bit, the only Marvel title to ever release in the month of November is the 2013 sequel, Thor: The Dark World, which debuted with $85.7 million in November 2013, and to look at IMDb page view data leading up to a film's release, Doctor Strange has been keeping relatively close to Thor 2's performance at the same point in the release cycle, and only occasionally a fraction behind.

To play with the numbers a little further, should you adjust Thor: The Dark World's $85.7 million opening for inflation using the latest US government CPI data you get $88.8 million. You also get nearly the same result when you adjust The Dark World's opening using Mojo's inflation adjuster based on ticket prices, which makes $88 million a good ceiling figure for the film's opening. As for the basement number, studio expectations are relatively conservative, anticipating an opening closer to other standalone character introductions, but to expect something around $65-$70 million would suggest the MCU hasn't seen much growth over the past several years. In fact, should that actually be the case, Strange has more going for it than being "just another Marvel film".

Strange currently holds an impressive 90% rating on RottenTomatoes and it clearly has the appearance of a film audiences will want to see in theaters as the trailers promise world-bending scenarios that quickly conjure memories of Christopher Nolan's Inception. To that point, 3,530 of the 3,882 opening weekend theaters Doctor Strange is opening in will be playing it in 3D. Of that theater count 379 will be showing the film in IMAX, 516 PLF theaters and 189 D-Box locations. It also doesn't hurt the film's star, Benedict Cumberbatch, has a strong fan following, all of which means making an $80 million opening weekend prediction a relatively safe bet and we're even going a bit higher, anticipating an $85 million debut.

Expected to finish in second is Fox and Dreamworks Animation's Trolls. Budgeted at $125 million the film is looking at an opening weekend anywhere from $36-42 million as both IMDb page view data as well as sources from online ticket seller Fandango.com tell us the film is keeping pace with films such as last year's The Peanuts Movie movie as well as The Angry Birds Movie from earlier this year.

Factors such as the film's ensemble voice cast, which includes Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, as well as Timberlake's hit song "Can't Stop the Feeling" and the possible bonus of parental familiarity with the Danish dolls that inspired the film could help bolster box office receipts. From a critical perspective, Trolls currently holds a 74% rating on RottenTomatoes, but at the same time it already has a 6.7/10 user rating on IMDb after it began hitting theaters internationally in mid-October, which could effect the film's ability to break-out due to diminished online excitement. An opening around $37 million seems entirely likely, or it could pop a little higher thanks to the fact it will be debuting in 4,060 theaters, approximately 75% of which are showing the film in 3D.

The last new wide release this weekend is probably the most difficult to forecast as Lionsgate's Hacksaw Ridge is debuting in 2,880 theaters and industry expectations anticipate an opening around $12 million, but signs are suggesting we should expect it to go a bit higher.

Hacksaw Ridge is the first film Mel Gibson has directed in ten years and after it screened at the Venice Film Festival this year it received a widely reported ten minute standing ovation. Since then the film has received largely positive reviews, currently holding an impressive 90% rating on RottenTomatoes.

In terms of a forecast, to expect a $12 million opening feels conservative at this point. Looking at IMDb data against comparable titles finds Hacksaw playing slightly behind Fury and ahead of Red Dawn at the same point in the release cycle. Of course, Hacksaw star Andrew Garfield doesn't carry quite the box office presence of Brad Pitt, which does put the Fury comparison into perspective. Yet, the fact the long-delayed and poorly reviewed Red Dawn managed to pull off a $14.2 million three-day opening in November 2012 (as part of a $21.6m five-day, Thanksgiving opening) does give credence to expecting a little more from Hacksaw's opening even if the target demographics aren't exactly in alignment.

Based on what we're looking at an opening anywhere from $14-18 million seems reasonable with the sweet spot being a prediction right around $16 million or so.

In limited release, Focus Features begins the domestic theatrical rollout for Jeff Nichols' Loving in four locations in New York and Los Angeles, and like all three of this weekend's wide releases, Thursday night screenings begin at 7 PM. The film has received excellent reviews, currently holding a 93% rating on RottenTomatoes, and following this weekend's debut will roll out to 10 additional markets next week, and will continue to expand through Thanksgiving weekend.

Additional limited release titles include Magnolia's Peter and the Farm and Gemelli's release of What Happened Last Night in 25 theaters.

This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • Doctor Strange (3,882 theaters) - $85.0 M
  • Trolls (4,060 theaters) - $36.0 M
  • Hacksaw Ridge (2,880 theaters) - $16 M
  • Boo! A Madea Halloween (2,234 theaters) - $7.7 M
  • Inferno (3,576 theaters) - $7.3 M
  • The Accountant (2,688 theaters) - $4.8 M
  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (3,079 theaters) - $4.4 M
  • Ouija: Origin of Evil (2,376 theaters) - $3.3 M
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (1,710 theaters) - $2.3 M
  • The Girl on the Train (1,566 theaters) - $2.2 M

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