‘Doctor Strange’ Tops Box Office in Disney’s Far-Out Year

  • Studio crosses $6 billion in box office revenue for the year
  • ‘Trolls’ debuts in second with estimate-beating ticket sales

Walt Disney Co. topped the weekend box office with “Doctor Strange,” the newest comic-book-to-film character from its Marvel superhero hit factory.

Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, “Doctor Strange” collected an estimated $85 million in its debut in the U.S and Canada, ComScore Inc. said Sunday in an e-mailed statement. It beat two other new releases, 20th Century Fox’s “Trolls,” which placed second, and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” which garnered a third-place finish for Mel Gibson’s first directorial feature in a decade.

“Doctor Strange” scored the biggest debut among Marvel movies that introduce a single character since Robert Downey Jr.’s 2008 blockbuster “Iron Man,” which generated $98 million. It gives Burbank, California-based Disney its fifth No. 1 movie this year, extending an industry lead after becoming only the second studio in history to cross $6 billion in annual sales worldwide. Disney’s $6.07 billion in sales this year trails only the $6.89 billion that Universal Pictures tallied in 2015.

Disney is “on a trajectory to be the No. 1 studio, if not for the next five years, then for the next decade,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “We are living in a superhero world right now and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.”

The studio plans to bring more superheros to audiences in coming years, such as “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel.”

Before reaching screens in North America, “Doctor Strange” had already garnered $122 million in foreign ticket sales, researcher Box Office Mojo said on Thursday. Cumberbatch portrays a talented neurosurgeon whose hands are mangled in a car accident. In his search to find a way to repair them, he is led to the Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton, who teaches him the ability to harness mystic powers.

The film earned top scores from critics, with 90 percent giving positive reviews, according to aggregator Rottentomatoes.com. It cost $165 million to produce, excluding marketing expenses, and was set to generate $85 million on its first weekend, according to analysts at Box Office Mojo.

DreamWorks Animation SKG’s “Trolls,” distributed by Fox, generated $45.6 million in its first weekend, beating an estimate of $39.5 million by analysts at BoxOfficePro.com. The film, based on the dolls of the same name, cost $125 million to make and includes the voices of Anna Kendrick as the ever-optimistic Poppy and Justin Timberlake as Branch, her polar opposite, who set off on a journey to rescue her friends. The movie garnered 76 percent positive reviews on Rottentomatoes.com.

“Hacksaw Ridge” is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a U.S. soldier during World War II who refused to carry a gun on the front line for religious reasons and who became the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. It generated $14.8 million. The movie received critical acclaim, scoring 87 percent positive reviews, on Rottentomatoes.com, and was forecast to debut at $15.4 million, according to Hollywood Stock Exchange.

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