The big box-office story of the weekend isn’t exactly, ahem, strange. So let’s bury the lede for a second and start with some good news: Small movies are doing gangbusters business in limited release. This past weekend saw the premiere of Jeff Nichols’ Loving, whose dramatization of a protracted civil-rights battle earned $169,000 on just four screens to become the fifth best opening of the year, in terms of per-screen average. It’s not the only indie success story of the season. There’s also The Eagle Huntress, debuting with more than $50K on the same number of screens—a very solid number for a documentary. Qualified congratulations are also in order for Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (inching close to a million in its third weekend, which is a great haul for a subtitled erotic thriller) and Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women (also approaching nine digits and likely to become the director’s biggest hit within a couple weeks). And then there’s the magnificent Moonlight, hovering just outside the top ten with a total gross of around $3 million and expanding to more theaters on the strength of great reviews, strong word-of-mouth, and that beautiful one sheet.
These are all relative triumphs, of course—although so, in its own way, is the inevitable dominance of the weekend’s real winner. The 14th consecutive hit in the assembly line of smashes known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange opened to the world-bending tune of $84.9 million. That’s only the 10th best debut for an MCU movie, but it’s one of the best first showings for a new headliner, besting the origin stories of Thor, Captain America, and Ant-Man, and trailing only Iron Man’s inaugural starring vehicle, to which Doctor Strange owes a rather colossal debt of influence. It’s also pretty close to what Thor: The Dark World grossed almost exactly three years ago, further establishing that November is as fruitful a time to launch a Marvel movie as May. Just don’t assume the blockbuster has the rest of 2016 on lockdown—not with Harry Potter and Star Wars spin-offs on the way.
More relative good news: Though neither could topple the sorcerer with the magic cape, two new wide releases also did strong business on this especially well-attended first weekend of November. Buoyed by an inescapable Justin Timberlake tie-in track, Trolls made $45.6 million, which is hair more than what The Peanuts Movie managed in this same slot one year ago. And Mel Gibson’s latest directorial effort, Hacksaw Ridge, drudged up a respectable $14 million. Let’s hope Gibson’s the only foul-mouthed megalomaniac America is willing to widely forgive this week of November.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.