Box-Office Preview: ‘Doctor Strange’ Eyes Magical $65M-Plus U.S. Debut

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Courtesy of Marvel
‘Doctor Strange’

The Justin Timberlake- and Anna Kendrick-voiced ‘Trolls’ is likewise set to please, while director Mel Gibson’s World War II-set ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ and specialty film ‘Loving’ also debut.

Marvel Studios and Disney’s Doctor Strange should have no trouble chasing away the fall blues at the domestic box office, where it is projected to open in the $65 million-$70 million range this weekend from 3,882 theaters after conjuring up a stellar $100 million from select international markets in its first week.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the titular superhero, a surgeon named Stephen Strange whose career is ruined after his hands are destroyed in a car accident. He seeks out the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who teaches him the power of the mystical arts. Scott Derrickson directed the pic, which also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams.

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Doctor Strange — the 14th title in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — is tipped to come in ahead of the domestic debut of 2015’s Ant-Man ($57.7 million) and will beat the first Captain America (2011) and Thor (2011) if it comes in north of $66 million.

DreamWorks Animation and Fox’s Trolls should also help energize the North American box office after a grim September and October, when revenue slipped 10 percent. Part of the reason was a dearth of family films, creating a pent-up demand. Trolls is projected to bow in the $35 million-$40 million range from 4,060 locations.

Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick star in the animated musical, with Timberlake serving as an executive producer of the soundtrack, which includes his original hit song “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Trolls is based on the classic dolls of the same name and tells the story of two trolls who must save their village from destruction by the Bergens, who love to eat the little creatures.

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On the more serious side, Lionsgate opens Mel Gibson’s World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge, starring Andrew Garfield as Desmond T. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who refused to bear arms when he was a U.S. Army medic. Despite being a conscientious objector, he was awarded the medal of honor for staying behind and saving more than 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa. Vince Vaughn and Teresa Palmer co-star.

Hacksaw Ridge is projected to open in the $12 million-$15 million range from 2,800-plus locations. It has been 10 years since the last movie Gibson directed, Apocalypto. Hacksaw Ridge, costing $40 million, was financed independently before Lionsgate picked up U.S. rights.

As awards season intensifies, Focus Features opens director Jeff Nichols’ interracial drama Loving in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Based on another real-life tale, the film stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as married couple Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and a black woman, who spent nine years fighting for the right to live in Virginia before the U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, invalidated state laws forbidding interracial marriages.

Both Hacksaw Ridge and Loving have award ambitions. All four films boast strong reviews.

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