‘Doctor Who’ Wows at the Box Office; Could a Feature Film Follow?

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doctor who box office success movie Doctor Who Wows at the Box Office; Could a Feature Film Follow?

The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special took over social media and conquered television with its global simulcast Saturday afternoon, but in the twilight of that huge accomplishment comes a bit of news that might be even more impressive.

Playing on just 660 screens across the US by way of Fathom Events, expectations for Monday night’s ‘Day of the Doctor’ special screening couldn’t have been terribly high. After-all, the special had already aired across the US, reviews and “spoilers” had hit the internet, and super-fans in 11 of the United States’ biggest cities had already gotten the chance to see the special on a big screen. But when the numbers were tallied, the final result was stunning: $4.77 million with a $7,155 per theater average.

Those figures mean that Doctor Who nearly topped the U.S. box office last night, making it second only to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which finished this past weekend with a $161 million dollar debut. That’s the kind of accomplishment that turns heads, so the question has to be asked: Could the 50th Anniversary Special’s thunderous theatrical performance spark a renewed interest in a Doctor Who movie?

Who fans will, of course, remember that we have been here before. Two years ago, four-time Harry Potter director David Yates started a conversation about the possibility of a Doctor Who film, stating:

“We’re looking at writers now. We’re going to spend two to three years to get it right. It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena.”

Doctor Who 50 Anniversary Special Images Doctor Who Wows at the Box Office; Could a Feature Film Follow?

This was prior to ‘The Day of the Doctor,’ so the notion of Doctor Who needing a radical transformation to cut it on the big screen seems a bit far-fetched. However, at the time, that was where Yates’ head was at as he planned to proceed on this project. Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat would hear nothing of it, and he took to Twitter to dismiss Yates’ Doctor Who project, which was supposed to be developed beside the TV version, not as a part of it – something that had been done before (the Peter Cushing once starred in two Dr. Who films) and would likely be met with great opposition if attempted again.

Nearly a year later, Moffat reiterated his belief that any and all Doctor Who projects must go through the BBC, saying:

“Look, we hopefully will do a ‘Doctor Who’ film someday. It will be absolutely run by the ‘Doctor Who’ production office in Cardiff. It will feature the same Doctor as on television. It will not be a rebooted continuity. All of that would be insane. So that whole proposal was not true, did not happen. I can say that with authority because, as far as the BBC is concerned, I’m the voice of ‘Doctor Who.’ So if I say it, it’s true.”

That was July 2012, and obviously a lot has changed since then – besides even the box office success of the 50th Anniversary Special. For one, we’re about to rollover into a new Doctor (Peter Capaldi) after a potentially controversial regeneration during the upcoming Christmas Special, but season 8 is also set to have a new executive producer alongside Moffat in the form of Brian Minchin, who had previously worked with both Russel T. Davies and Moffat on Who and its sister series.

Peter Capaldi Doctor Who Doctor Who Wows at the Box Office; Could a Feature Film Follow?

When Minchin joined the team, we wondered if it might be as a built-in replacement for Moffat when he decided to depart the series, but within the confines of a discussion about a possible Doctor Who movie, it’s worth wondering if Minchin could actually one day mind the show while Moffat worked on pushing out a Doctor Who film. Wouldn’t that serve as a fitting and epic final act for Moffat (or perhaps as the opening act as the lord of a concurrent film franchise, should the first film be successful)?

Of course, this is all speculation brought on by the success of the 50th Anniversary Special at the US box office, but it is worth pondering, as is the question about whether a Doctor Who film could succeed on its own without the buzz and pageantry of the 50th Anniversary hanging over it.

Would the absence of that publicity hurt, or would it be negated by the allure of a Doctor Who experience with a movie-sized budget (and promotional campaign), blockbuster sensibilities, and in-theater exclusivity? These are all fun things to consider should Steven Moffat and the BBC choose to go down this path anytime in the near future, especially now that that path seems suddenly more viable after Doctor Who‘s robust performance across screens large and small over these last few days.

What do you think? Does a Doctor Who film make sense and would you rush to the theater to see it?


Doctor Who Christmas Special, ”The Time of the Doctor,” premieres December 25 on BBC and BBC America.

Source: EW

Follow Jason Tabrys on Twitter @jtabrys
TAGS: Doctor who
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  1. I’d definitely see it for sure, but I kinda wished it would stay on tv, for now anyway. They shouldn’t rush for a movie right now.

    • Marvel did it with The Avengers and the SHIELD TV show !
      This seems the other way around !

      They could start to have multiple Doctor Shows if they like,and that leads to Movies for showdown and big events that are to expensive to do on TV!

      Would be Cool !

      Captain Jack,
      David Tennant,
      the war Doctor TV Show..wow !

    • 50 years is rushing?

  2. By the last paragraph, I pretty much was drooling. First one in line at the midnight premier!

    • You’re wrong, I would beat you there!

      • HA! Not when my sonic screwdriver turns into a water pistol!

        • I’m getting in line now.

  3. I’d be down with a Doctor Who movie.

    The 50th, obviously not without its problems, was a great time and the whole theater was sold out.

    I would hope that if they do make a movie that they don’t dumb it down so that they can attract a “larger” audience.

    Then again, that’s more of an American thing… so maybe we’re good?

  4. No to a Doctor Who movie. Least of all if it based on the sucess of the 50th Anniversary Special in North America. A movie was tried once for the yankees and it killed the franchise. Doctor Who needs to stay in TV. British TV.

    • How did the two Peter Cushing movies kill the franchise? They are pretty insignificant footnotes to the series, nothing more, nothing less. If you refer to the 1996 telemovie, it didn’t kill anything either. It just wasn’t able to revive the show that had already been in hibernation for the better part of a decade.

      A DH movie franchise could work… Personally I would prefer a remake of the original series featuring the best stories with big-screen production values and actors that ressemble the originals. I like the old show to some degree but it just doesn’t stand the test of time… dragging, slow-paced serialisation, unimpressive production values even for its own time when compared to other genre shows of the 60s and 70s and of course the fact that these episodes are lost in below-SD video quality.

      It would be fun to see two or three movies with each original doctor in 3D-UHD quality… The new show continues on BBC, whereas the movies re-explore the past, maybe in a sort of rebooted timeline… Star Trek anyone?

    • Agreed. The reverence involved is hard won from British audiences. A Non Violent, History Professor Alien with A Flashing Screwdriver?

      It will never happen in America.

      • Ummmmm, they show ALOT worse movies in theaters, I live in America and never seen a movie being “dumbed down”

  5. Please? I mean come on! Isn’t peter jackson a fan? He was in the 5ish doctors short. Let him make a doctor who movie!

  6. It could be a great project…but it is quite risky…
    And the movie itself.. would it be an origin story..? or just a huge space-adventure..?
    Also, i’d rather have the same doctor on TV as well as the big screen..
    Not sure if this thing could work..not in the “near” future..
    If there was a movie….I’d be first in line…

    • I will beat you all back with a fez and a banana! That first spot is MINE!!!!!!!

    • If south park had a extremely successful movie that was nominated for a Oscar, then I am more then sure doctor who can too. Odd comparison I know but still…

    • Sure, you can do an origin story without a problem. Essentially redo some of the early stories as movies – or even better, some of the lost stories. Correct any continuity isses with the current show and you have it: A movie that not only doesn’t conflict with the TV show, but supliments it as well. Do 3 stories from each Classic Doctor with 2 years in between and we’re all still watching in 50 years.

  7. If they do it, they have two Doctors to draw from if they want it in-universe. If it’s a Time War story, they can use John Hurt, if it isn’t they can use Paul McGann…

    If they do it the Peter Cushing way, it’d be better, no need to make sure stories don’t conflict. And there are other timelords to tap, so “Doctor Who” becomes an overtitle, above the main title.

  8. It did well in the theaters because it promised to be an event. There was lots to like……..
    But they could have chosen a better villain than the red rubber octopi they chose. What a terrible costume. I immediately thought of the Ricky Gervais costume from EXTRAS.

    The thing is…THis was AN EVENT. The idea would be all the stops were pulled out…Yet, we get some average computer graphics and people standing in small rooms. Where was the money spent? I assume it all went into blocking off the bridge by the Parliament Buildings for a day.

    • Crud. My point was….This doesn’t indicate the World wants to see a Doctor Who movie. It would have to be an Origin Story. And The Doctor’s origin is constantly shrouded in mystery. I think it would fail fail fail…..Or become something that is different from the real Doctor and so wouldn’t be canon.

      • Why would it need an origin story? Most film series don’t have origin stories.

        James Bond didn’t have an origin story until they rebooted it, same with Star Trek. Riddick still doesn’t have an origin story. Nor Mission Impossible. We never went back to Rambo’s origin in Vietnam.

        • ALL supernatural character movies have origin stories…Plus most of the action movies. Star Trek doesn’t count as it’s a cultural phenomenon. James Bond, I sort of agree…..MI DID have an origin story. Ethan Hunt became a leader after HIS leader went rogue. Rambo DESCRIBED his origins.(So does Riddick…however, the first movie is not HIS movie. The second movie is s***, and the third is just a rehash of the first. I call it Zero Sum) The first part of the movie is this….Plus Richard Crenna is Captain Exposition who gives his origin story throughout the movie….Plus this incident is the thing that galvanizes him to find a path for his life. An origin story. I disagree, largely, with your stance. All movies need to tell the backstory of the main character in some way. Doctor Who AT BEST is a marginal character in most of the world. A part time avuncular/part time bellicose British College Professor with a smart screwdriver? Get outta here. You’ll need to spend a movie explaining it.

          • Star Trek doesn’t count since it’s a cultural phenomenon. So wtf is Doctor Who then?

            • Doctor Who, while beloved by a section of people in the world, is not the cultural phenomenon that Star Trek was.

              • If you are American then perhaps not. Wordwide “Doctor Who” has a huge following, especially amoungst all the commonwealth countries that recieved it. However the US has missed out on other wildly successful British pop culture phenomenons such as “Thunderbirds”, “captain Scarlet” etc…. Those things went worldwide and are huge, but the US just didn’t accept them, despite the latter two being made specifically to encourage American networks to pick them up. I guess back then in the 60’s and the US prefered it’s own US made programming. Probably to even out the music charts that were full of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. (^-^)

                • No. I’m Canadian. My dad, who is a wee Frenchman, is a lifelong devotee of Coronation Street. We get a lot of BBC stuff and I watched a lot of the 4th Doctor. But hardly anyone else did, and it’s in no way a cultural phenomenon here beyond the nerd sect. It’s a cheesy show, to be honest, and viewed, with good reason, as a children’s program. That’s just the honest, no bullsquid truth of it.
                  I love Doctor Who. But it just doesn’t translate well. I agree that it’s on the radar of many countries around the world, but I suspect it’s mostly a blip way at the edge. And to grab the younger movie goer’s dollar, a group who really hasn’t been exposed to the history of the Doctor, you’d have to do a movie to explain who the frak the character is. This is obvious stuff.

                  • Well 50 years and still on TV ain’t bad. Yeah, it’s been cancelled, but so was Star Trek. Hopefully the US will look at the success of DW at the moment and decide to give a Star Trek tv show another go.

  9. I think if they make a movie/movies they should use Paul Mcgann. He still looks good for it and his run as the doctor hasn’t really been explored except in radio plays and books. He could still feature with Tennant and Smith while they still look the part.

    They could do whatever they wanted with McGann’s Doctor without reebooting anything or messing with continuity. It’s the perfect way to do it and not harm the TV show in any way.

    • Agreed. 3 mini-eps half hour each into a movie. Lots of who radio plays and who novels to grab the stories from. Release it as they did for the Day of The Doctor for one showing on the ‘big screen’ just prior to Christmas – and a different one (3 story) for every Christmas here after. Could keep McCoy and McGann busy for quite some time.

      • I wouldn’t think McCoy would be too up to it… though if we’re looking at actors who still look reasonably close to their TV personas…

        Davidson, McCoy, McGann, Hurt, Eccleston, Tennant would all be reasonable facimiles of themselves.

        The two Bakers definitely do not look like they did before.

  10. As long as it’s part of the TV series, not a reboot or any of the nonsense Yates was spouting, I’d be very happy to see a Who movie. Day of the Doctor showed you don’t need to abandon the TV continuity to have a hit.

  11. If they made a feature movie for theaters I would definitely go see it. Probably one of the most fun and energetic sci fi shows around today.

  12. John Hurts involvment in this excellent show has to be recognised – His experience & stature was so important – Of course it would and will make a superb movie – especially if they rope-in heavy weights of the Silver Screen like this.

  13. What is this notion of an idea not being legitimately successful unless it’s bought and re-packaged by the U.S.? There’s already Dr. Who movies and shows, and they are near perfection for their genre. I say leave it out of the giant USA studios, let it keep it’s charm. It may potentially be a big-spectacle summer blockbuster but I don’t believe it should ever be at the expense of the continuity and “britishness” of the show. This cult classic deserves better than the JJAbramsesque “chuck the history out the window” treatment. IMO

  14. The two 60’s movies weren’t so much Doctor Who movies, as Dalek movies. In the 60’s kids went mental for the Daleks toys, costumes, comics, games etc…. Those movies were really just a way to exploit their popularity.

    • They could do that again, Dalek movies, set on other planets where the Daleks invade (or other monsters, like the Cybermen, Rutons, Autons, … )

    • Do you love advertising on random threads?

  15. If they bring back David Tennant to be the big screen Doctor then yes. I don’t know that I would pay for a Matt Smith or Peter Capaldi adventure…