Instant Analysis: What Does the Success of "Doctor Strange" Mean for Disney?

Image source: Disney.

Doctor Strange had a magical weekend at the box office, with its $85 million American opening coming in $10 million ahead of early top-end tracking estimates, and great reviews putting the picture in position for strong domestic holds. The picture was the 14th entry in Disney's (NYSE: DIS) Marvel Cinematic Universe to debut in the top spot at the American box office, and it currently holds a positive rating from 90% of critics on RottenTomatoes -- making it one of the best critically received films in the series.

The latest installment in Disney's massive superhero franchise also did great business in China, with its $44.5 million opening in the country representing the best-ever debut for a new superhero property and pointing to continued strong international performance. The picture opened a week earlier in many other markets, and has passed $325 million in global ticket sales.

Does it matter?

Doctor Strange beating expectations is good news for Disney, in light of concerns about possible superhero oversaturation, and turbulence at ESPN due to continued subscriber losses and ratings declines for some of its key broadcasts. The past weekend's ticket sales put Disney's year-to-date total over $6 billion, and keep the company on track to achieve the biggest year in box-office history. Strange appears to be on track for a box office take of between $600 million and $700 million, and upcoming releases Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story look to elevate the company's global ticket sales well above the $7 billion mark.

With a reported production budget of $165 million, Doctor Strange will turn a solid profit for Disney. Perhaps more importantly, the picture shows that the company is still leading the pack in terms of franchise creation and management. Like Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange didn't have name recognition working in its favor; it managed to land as a hit without big support from other Marvel headliners. The film's impressive performance bodes well for a now-likely sequel, while also strengthening the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe and further cementing the franchise as one of the most dependably explosive properties in entertainment.

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