The weekend saw three new major releases in theaters — Universal's "Almost Christmas," Paramount's "Arrival" and EuropaCorp's "Shut In" — but holdovers maintained the top spots at the box office.
"Doctor Strange," the latest comic book offering from Marvel Studios that's now in its second week in the U.S., came out in first — again — adding an estimated $43 million in the U.S. and Canada to its gross. It beat analyst expectations of $42 million.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a former neurosurgeon who can manipulate time and space, the picture has pulled in a total of $153 million domestically and is on its way to $493 million worldwide. In just three weeks of its release (it opened internationally first), the film has already earned back more than double its $165-million price tag.
In second place was
Both films are helping to improve the overall box office totals, compared with last year's. The two are the power behind the total box office's fourth consecutive weekly increase, year over year.
Faring the best out of the new releases was "Arrival," which pulled in $24 million, surpassing analyst expectations of $17 million to $18 million and nearly doubling the studio's more modest projection of $12 million to $15 million.
"I think it was a culmination of a truly great movie by a visionary director with an incredible cast," said Kyle Davies, the studio's head of distribution.
Starring Amy Adams as a linguist recruited to communicate with extraterrestrials who have positioned 12 spaceships around the globe, “Arrival” is directed by rising Quebec filmmaker Denis Villeneuve. He’s the man responsible for last year’s drug war thriller “Sicario” from Lionsgate and 2013's “Prisoners” from
Such a performance is welcome news for the Viacom-owned Paramount, which has struggled this year with poor performers such as "Ben-Hur" and "Zoolander 2." But audiences and critics appear to have taken to the new PG-13 film.
Though the film has a formidable 93% positive rating on critic site Rotten Tomatoes, moviegoers (52% male; 85% over 25) gave "Arrival" a B CinemaScore.
Davies noted that the over-performance of "Arrival," as well as the entire box office, is perhaps due to audiences wanting escapes from the "turbulent" week that saw Donald Trump elected as the next president and protests nationwide about the election results.
Universal's "Almost Christmas" brought early holiday spirit, taking in $15.6 million in its first week, good enough for a fourth-place finish. It came in just above analysts' $15 million expectations.
"We're very happy with the start," said Nick Carpou, Universal's domestic distribution president. "We have great play ability as we go forward in the holiday season."
"Almost Christmas," a comedy from writer-director David E. Talbert, follows a dysfunctional family as they gather for the first Christmas since the matriarch died. Danny Glover plays the dad, Walter, and a cast including Gabrielle Union, Jessie T. Usher, Nicole Ari Parker, Omar Epps, J.B. Smoove, Romany Malco and Kimberly Elise play his children and their spouses. Oscar-winner Mo'Nique, in her first comedic role in almost 10 years, plays the sassy, high-spirited Aunt May. The film also stars budding comedian and Internet personality D.C. Young Fly and singer Keri Hilson.
Perhaps the first movie of the Christmas holiday season, the PG-13 picture tracked best with black people, as expected, who were 71% of "Almost Christmas'" audiences. (56% were female and 60% were 25 or older.) Moviegoers gave it an A-minus CinemaScore, but critics didn't favor the picture; it has a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Landing in the fifth spot was Lionsgate's "Hacksaw Ridge" with $10.8 million. That's only a 29% drop since its debut last week, bringing the film's gross to $32.3 million.
"Shut In," the last of the week's new releases, nabbed only a seventh place spot, with $3.7 million. It came in lower than expectations of about $6 million this weekend.
The dark thriller from Luc Besson's distribution company, EuropaCorp, stars Naomi Watts as a widowed psychologist trying to save a mysterious child (Jacob Tremblay) from a deadly New England snowstorm.
Critics and audiences appear unsure about the film. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — all 16 of the picture's reviews are "rotten" — and received a C CinemaScore from audience members.
On the limited-release front, A24's "Moonlight" continues to expand (now at 176 theaters) and garner more attention. This weekend it added $1.4 million (with an impressive per theater average of $7,732) and brought its total to $4.8 million.
Focus Features' "Loving," starring Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga and Michael Shannon, added $532,000 to its total for a 10-day gross of $740,191. The film tells the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple whose 1958 marriage was illegal in their home state of Virginia. Their fight led to the unanimous 1967 Supreme Court ruling that racist anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional.
Sony's "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," directed by Ang Lee, opened this week with an impressive $120,300 in just two theaters. The picture, about an American private who served in the Iraq war, has a solid per-theater average of $60,150 and will expand next weekend to more than 800 theaters nationwide.
Lastly, Sony Pictures Classic's French-language drama "Elle," directed by Paul Verhoeven, opened well with $56,012 in just two theaters.
Next week, Warner Bros.' highly anticipated "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" opens, as do Open Road's "Bleed For This" and STX's "Edge of Seventeen."
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9:50 a.m.: This article was updated with studio comments.