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.”
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.
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.