With Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy both managing to win over even casual moviegoers, box office analysts have since been a bit more cautious about referring to any Marvel movie as a “risk,” which is why the latest offering – Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange – has largely been spared forecasts of doom. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, an arrogant and highly skilled surgeon whose career is derailed after a car crash cripples his hands, and whose journey to find a successful treatment leads him to a mentor called the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and a place of magic called Kamar-Taj.
Though the fantasy genre has struggled somewhat of late at the domestic box office, it has been buoyed by success overseas, with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Warcraft standing out as particularly salient examples. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that Doctor Strange is also off to a strong start in international markets.
Deadline reports that Doctor Strange has scored an $86 million opening weekend across 33 markets, with the biggest share coming from Korea, where it managed an impressive $18.1 million. According to Deadline‘s assessment, Doctor Strange has debuted 49% ahead of Ant-Man, 37% ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy, and 23% ahead of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It also scored the biggest international IMAX opening for October, knocking Gravity off the top spot with $7.8 million across 213 IMAX screens in 32 countries – no doubt thanks to Doctor Strange‘s widely-advertised mind-bending visuals.
Though this is certainly great news for Marvel, the biggest challenge is still to come in a few days, when Doctor Strange will open in the two biggest film markets worldwide: North America and China. The latter is a market that the studio has carefully been courting for years, and given the excellent performance of Warcraft at the Chinese box office earlier this year, the intersection of China’s love of fantasy and love of Marvel movies could make Doctor Strange a huge success with Chinese audiences.
The domestic box office is another matter. While a great international performance will certainly help to take the pressure off Doctor Strange to win over U.S. audiences, the studio still needs to succeed in getting fans at home invested in the character. After all, he’s already lined up to appear in Thor: Ragnarok, a future Avengers movie, and almost certainly at least one direct sequel. Hopefully the Inception-esque visuals and Cumberbatch’s charm will be enough to win audiences over to the strange side.