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'Doctor Strange' wields its power over 'Trolls' at the box office

'Doctor Strange' wields its power over 'Trolls' at the box office
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in "Doctor Strange," which is the No. 1 film at the box office this weekend. (Jay Maidment / Marvel)

"Doctor Strange" is casting a spell over moviegoers this weekend, proving again that Marvel Studios is too big to fail at the box office.

The film starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a neurosurgeon-turned-superhero grossed an impressive $32.6 million on Friday, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios. The movie is on track to take in over $80 million during its first weekend in theaters, marking another win for Marvel, whose last release in May — the “Captain America” sequel “Civil War” — took in a whopping $1.2 billion worldwide.

"Doctor Strange," which Marvel says cost $165 million to produce, features a character lesser known to non-comic book readers. But both critics and audiences have taken to the film, with ticket buyers who saw the movie Friday assigning it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Before the film debuted in North America this weekend, it already had earned $99 million abroad — this before opening in some big markets like China and Brazil.

Meanwhile, the weekend’s other big-budget release — DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls” — is performing decently at the multiplex. The animated movie, which features the celebrity voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, collected $12.3 million Friday. By weekend’s end, the 20th Century Fox release should take in about $44 million — a good-but-not-great start for a movie with a $125 production budget.

"Trolls" could prove to have strong legs in the coming weeks, having received an average grade of A from early moviegoers.

That’s the same grade Mel Gibson’s new film, “Hacksaw Ridge,” received, though the movie took in a far lesser $5.2 million Friday.

The Lionsgate release, which stars Andrew Garfield as a conscientious objector during World War II, is the first movie Gibson has directed since “Apocalypto” in 2006. The movie should end up with an opening of around $15 million — the same amount “Apocalypto” debuted with a decade ago. During that period, however, Gibson has weathered a handful of public relations nightmares, including anti-Semitic tirades and a much-publicized battle with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. A surprising turnaround for Gibson, but nowhere near magical enough to compete with Marvel.

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