‘Doctor Strange’ Poised for Spellbinding $73 Million Domestic Debut

“Trolls” likely to have fourth highest animated opening of the year

Doctor Strange main
"Doctor Strange" (Disney-Marvel)

Disney-Marvel’s magic-filled “Doctor Strange” is staring down a $73 million opening at the domestic box office this weekend and has already amassed $99 million overseas. (Though Disney’s sights are set a bit more conservatively at north of $65 million on the film’s debut in the U.S. and Canada.)

Overall, the comic book movie is poised to bring in a tidy sum from 3,882 locations this weekend on a sizable production budget of $165 million — not counting marketing costs.

DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls,” opening in roughly 4,000 theaters, is being distributed by Twentieth Century Fox — a leftover from DWA’s output deal before it was acquired by Universal’s Comcast earlier this year.

“Trolls,” which features the voices of pop stars Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani, along with Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, and more, is expected to debut at $47 million once the weekend is through, though studio heads are estimating closer to the high 30s.

The animated feature, made for a reported $125 million, revolves around an extremely happy Troll named Poppy (Kendrick), who teams up with the grumpy Branch (Timberlake) to rescue her friends from invaders.

If it meets the high end of estimates, “Trolls” will be the fourth biggest opening of the year for an animated feature, behind Disney’s “Zootopia” — which went on to top $1 billion worldwide. But if it opens on the low end, the animated movie will come in lower than “Kung Fu Panda 3,” which bowed to $41.3 million and was also from DreamWorks.

Mel Gibson marks his directorial return with Cross Creek Pictures’ World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge,” being distributed by Lionsgate. And it’s already receiving heavy awards season buzz.

Starring Andrew Garfield as a conscientious objector who saved dozens of soldiers’ lives in Japan, the film is expected to bow to $16 million. That’s a solid opening for a film reported to have cost $40 million to make, not counting the marketing spend.

Current predictions seat “Doctor Strange” in 19th among Marvel openings. The Benedict Cumberbatch movie should easily come in ahead of Paramount’s “Thor,” which debuted at $65.7 million in 2011, as well as the debuts of “Ant-Man” ($57 million) and “Captain America: The First Avenger” ($65 million).

The new Disney-Marvel title should also come in ahead of Fox’s “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which opened to $65.7 million in May.

But “Doctor Strange” would have to best expectations somewhat dramatically in order to beat “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” for 18th place. The Fox film starring Hugh Jackman opened to $85.1 million in 2009.

Regardless, $73 million is a strong achievement for an original film — especially one based on a relatively unfamiliar comic-book property not previously seen on the big screen.

Among Hollywood studios, Disney currently has the largest market share of box office grosses this year with $2.15 billion, or 24.5 percent. Warner Bros. is a distant second with $1.53 billion or 17.4 percent.

With tentpole films “Doctor Strange,” Disney’s animated “Moana” and also Lucasfilm’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” set to come out, Disney could end the year with an even higher percentage of the pie. But Warner still has a potential monster hit in its back pocket with the adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

“Doctor Strange” follows the story of talented neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions.

Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilizing a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel cinematic universe.

Directed by Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”), the movie also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Amy Landecker and Scott Adkins.