“Doctor Strange” has proven to be magical onscreen and off, earning a massive estimated $85 million on its domestic debut this weekend.
When trackers first started following the new Disney-Marvel comic book-based movie, they predicted, on average, a $75 million debut. Then, just less than a week ahead of its opening, they forecasted roughly $73 million — with Disney hoping for the high sixties.
So why did it overperform?
1. Great Reviews
A 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes is nothing to sneeze at. Critical praise likely bolstered audience confidence in their decision to throw down dollars for tickets. The movie won raves for its lighthearted approach, its dazzling visuals and a top-notch cast, including Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen.
2. Benedict Cumberbatch Is a Magic Man
As ComScore’s Paul Dergarabedian put it, the film had “perfect casting,” telling TheWrap on Sunday that Cumberbatch proved to have star power as he “so perfectly inhabited this character.” Moviegoers are likely in agreement with the critics, Vulture’s David Edelstein writing, “Dr. Stephen Strange is not the most famous or distinctive of the Marvel characters, but thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch, he might be the most entertaining.”
3. Audiences Were Bedazzled
Between the strong cast lead by Brit Benny C., the engrossing story and the film’s many visual fireworks, moviegoers couldn’t get enough of the most psychedelic movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It got an A CinemaScore from those surveyed on opening night, reflecting how positively audiences are reacting to it.
4. They Paid Higher Ticket Prices
While audience attendance was likely in line with a $70 million 2D movie, a much higher percentage of them shelled out extra dollars for a specialized experience. IMAX, Premium Large Format, and 3D movie tickets accounted for a whopping 51 percent of its $85 million opening. And yes, this title plays particularly well in 3D, Dergarabedian noting its “immersive visual style.” “See it in 3-D IMAX, people, and you’re in for the hallucinatory headtrip of the year,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers.
5. Marketing Moved Audiences to 3D Theaters
It’s no accident “Doctor Strange” did well in specialized and 3D theaters — Disney marketed it that way, also targeting comic book fans and technology nerds. Among the studio’s numerous trailers, TV spots, print ads and brand partnerships was IMAX’s “Expand Your Mind,” which showed 15 exclusive minutes of the movie in more than 100 theaters. Perhaps something of a good luck charm: IMAX did almost the same thing for “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which also overperformed on its huge $94.3 million debut in 2014.
6. Moviegoers Trust in Marvel
There can be no doubt about it at this point, the MCU brand is strong. “What’s most important is a decade of goodwill and audience loyalty built by a consistent record of quality movie making from Marvel and their creative team,” added Dergarabedian.