2016 has certainly been a lucrative year for the comic book-based superhero movie genre in general; what with 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool, Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, and Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War all bringing in hefty U.S. and international box office hauls alike. Similarly, even though Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse arguably performed below its expectations financially-speaking, the film nevertheless grossed more than half a billion dollars around the world. This leads us to the question of how the year will close out for superheroes on the big screen, with the arrival of Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
A one-to-one comparison between Doctor Strange and its peers is not a fair one, all things considered. After all, the former is based on comparatively lesser-known comic book source material than, say, Deadpool; and unlike most of the other comic book movie adaptations that have been released in 2016, Doctor Strange has not been marketed as an “event” movie – even though it aims to open up a whole new side to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, by exploring a story full of real magic and magic-users. For related reasons, general expectations to date have been that the film will enjoy a solid opening weekend, if one well below the levels of its peers this year.
Deadline is reporting that so much looks to be true, with Doctor Strange projected to gross between $55-75 million during its U.S. box office opening weekend. For the sake of comparison, fellow MCU solo character film Ant-Man grossed $57.2 million during its first weekend at the U.S. box office in July 2015. Meanwhile, the Phase 1 MCU solo superhero movies Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger both grossed $65-66 million during their domestic opening frames and 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy secured $94.3 million during its first three days of release stateside.
Doctor Strange, unlike the previously-listed MCU solo character films (and Guardians), is arriving in theaters during the fall rather than the summer movie season (which, to be clear, for our purposes encompasses May through August). The only other MCU movie that was released in theaters in the last quarter of the year to date is Thor: The Dark World, a sequel that did fly higher than the upper-end of the current predictions for Doctor Strange, with an $85.7 million U.S. opening weekend take. Still, the fairest comparison might be that made between Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, what with both being origin story movies drawn from relatively less-popular Marvel properties.
Ant-Man ultimately became a commercial success and earned itself a followup in the form of 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, thanks to the overall good worth of mouth that it generated – for both its namesake in the MCU and the movie itself. Doctor Strange could well chart a similar course, seeing as fan-favorite Benedict Cumberbatch is headlining as medical doctor-turned Sorcerer Supreme Stephen Vincent Strange; and like Ant-Man, the Scott Derrickson-directed Doctor Strange integrates fresh genre elements (here, of the supernatural horror and mystical variety) in order to better distinguish its own variation on the archetypical superhero origin narrative from that of its predecessors.
Doctor Strange also has the advantage of having a head-start on some of the other heavy-hitting tentpoles that are releasing in theaters over the last two months of 2016. For example, Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them won’t arrive until two weeks after Strange hits the scene, while highly-anticipated blockbusters in the making like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story won’t be arriving until mid-December. So long as Doctor Strange continues to build on the good buzz generated by its recent IMAX preview screenings, it may prove to be a relatively modest hit by Marvel Studios’ standards – but a hit, nonetheless.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Untitled Avengers – May 3, 2019; and as-yet-untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.