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'Doctor Strange' and his sorcery win box office: Here's what led to success

'Strange,' the newest Marvel superhero film, came in first place at the box office in its debut weekend. The animated movie 'Trolls' and director Mel Gibson's war film, 'Hacksaw Ridge,' also did well financially.

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'Doctor Strange' stars Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Marvel’s newest superhero, Doctor Strange, worked his magic at the weekend box office, with the movie of the same name coming in at No. 1 in its debut weekend.

“Doctor Strange” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, a skilled surgeon who is left searching for answers after his hands are injured in a car accident. After traveling to Nepal, he learns magical skills that help him in a fight against evil.

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The film co-stars Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Mads Mikkelsen.

“Strange” debuted with $85 million this past weekend. Behind it was the new animated movie “Trolls,” which was released by Dreamworks, also the home of such past animated films as the “How to Train Your Dragon” series and the “Kung Fu Panda” movies. “Trolls” brought in more than $45 million for second place.

Meanwhile, the new war film “Hacksaw Ridge,” which is directed by Mel Gibson and stars Andrew Garfield, placed third, grossing nearly $15 million in its debut weekend. The film “Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween,” which was released on Oct. 21, placed fourth, bringing in nearly $8 million this past weekend, while the Dan Brown adaptation “Inferno,” which originally opened on Oct. 28, placed fifth, taking in more than $6 million.

What led “Strange” to such success? Part of it is, of course, the Marvel brand. This was the 14th film released by the ultra-successful superhero studio, and the studio's films have become one of the most financially successful franchises of all time. Moviegoers know what they’re getting with the films.

And like many Marvel movies, “Strange” had a mostly positive reception from critics. Hollywood Reporter writer Pamela McClintock noted that “Strange” “boast[ed] glowing reviews.” 

Moviefone writer Gary Susman also credited Mr. Cumberbatch with bringing in moviegoers.

“He's ... reached the point where that fandom is actually translating into ticket sales,” Mr. Susman writes of admiration for the actor. “Two years ago, he managed to turn ‘The Imitation Game’ ... into a $91 million domestic hit. As much as the Marvel name alone sells tickets, it certainly helped that it was the cerebral and charismatic Cumberbatch playing the mysterious and obscure character.”