Veterans day weekend saw a sharp rise in box office returns across the board with Americans flocking to theaters, some in elation, some trying to find a distraction and relief from Tuesday’s revelation that the 45th president of the United States is Mr. Donald Trump. Dr. Strange, in its second week in theatres, took $43 million in the US and Canada and reached a $153 million cumulative. It’s already playing better than Thor: The Dark World, and has catapulted Disney to a second straight record setting year. Mickey and his legendary animated pals are already uncorking the champagne: with a month and a half left in the year they’ve beaten 2015’s box office record of $2.278 billion. While many lament the decline of original content in mainstream movies and there was a significant drop in appeal for several triple A sequels this year, Disney once again showed that it has the magic formula for box office success. With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story set to open on December 16 they will likely set a benchmark that will last, well, at least until the end of 2017 if this staggering upward trend is anything to go by. Their party continued overseas where Benedict Cumberbatch’s sorcery conjured another $60.2 million, bringing the film’s global gross to $492 million in less than a month. It reached $83.5 million in China.
Still in the Middle Kingdom Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk debuted with $13.5 million. Director Ang Lee, who was born in Taiwan to mainland parents and holds dual Chinese and Taiwanese as well as United States nationality, is a bona fide national treasure. His fame and the pride his multiple Golden Globe and Oscar wins evokes in his countryman will explain why a film about an Iraqi war vet who is invited to appear at a Texas football halftime show played so well in cities like Tianjin and Chengdu. It opened in two US theatres in New York and Los Angeles and made an expectedly stellar $60k per screen average. Billy Lynn will stave off its European and South American releases until January of next year, opting to continue playing in Asia and make a gradual US expansion before going wide just days after the 74th Golden Globe Awards are held on January 8th.
Back in the US, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival landed in theatres and netted $24 million on its debut. The French-Canadian director, who after the critical and box office success of Sicario and 2013’s Prisoners is one of Hollywood’s most in-demand helmsmen, adapted the screenplay for Arrival from a short story called Story of Your Life by author Ted Chiang. It presents a novel take on the first encounter with an alien species, with the pretty common trope of interplanetary romance making way for a deeply personal and introspective anthropological study of an apparently peaceful alien race. It landed overseas as well with $10.2 million coming from 25 markets. $3.1 million came from the UK, while it made $1.6 million in Australia. In Israel the film's themes of creating dialogue with an unfamiliar neighbor must have struck a chord: it made a locally significant $113.5k.
Trolls meanwhile held on to second place in the US for a $35 million return frame and reached a domestic total of $93 million. It made $18.3 million overseas to arrive at a global total of $223.3 million. Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge added $10.7 million at home after a strong Veterans Day boost, and tacked on another $3.7 million abroad. Its worldwide total now sits at $38.3 million.
Next weekend we’ll see the US release of Moana, an animated adventure that is sure to add a healthy sum to Disney’s already unprecedented yearly revenue, and Bad Santa 2 picks up 13 years after the original dark comedy debuted in 2003. Also opening are awards contenders Allied, a romantic spy caper starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cottilard from production companies GK films and Image Movers, and The Weinstein Company’s Lions, which tells the story of an Indian man (Dev Patel) adopted by Australian parents and his quest to find his roots in rural India.
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