NEW YORK — Moviegoers drained by the drama of the Presidential election sought refuge at the movies over the weekend, where ticket sales were robust for just about everything.
Marvel’s Doctor Strange led the North American box office for the second week with $43 million, according to studio estimates Nov. 13.
That was an especially strong hold for the Benedict Cumberbatch-led superhero blockbuster, which is now nearing $500 million globally.
Trolls, the musical animated release from 20th Century Fox with Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, also held well in its second week with $35.1 million, bringing its cumulative domestic total to $94 million.
Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction thriller Arrival, starring Amy Adams, scored the weekend’s top debut with a better-than-expected $24 million for Paramount Pictures.
Opening in fourth was Universal Pictures’ Almost Christmas, the first holiday-themed release to hit theaters. The family gathering comedy, starring Danny Glover and Gabrielle Union, debuted with $15.6 million.
The weekend box office was up about 47 percent from last year, according to comScore. The Nov. 11 holiday of Veteran’s Day also helped stoke business.
Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst for comScore, said the wide variety of releases gave moviegoers plenty of choice for escapism over the post-election weekend.
“In the first weekend after the election, I think it’s clear that people find being able to go to the movie theater is the perfect antidote to the election coverage,” said Dergarabedian.
“There’s almost nowhere else that you can unplug the way you can when you go to the movie theater.”
The good showing for Arrival, which cost $47 million to produce, was a welcome relief for Paramount.
The studio has endured a string of disappointments – including Ben-Hur and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – with a relatively thin slate of releases.
Paramount paid $20 million for the film’s domestic distribution rights. The film, in which a linguist is tasked by the government to communicate with newly arrived aliens, has drawn good reviews from critics.
Ang Lee’s Iraq War hero drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk also made its much awaited debuted, albeit on just two screens. The Sony Pictures release, which opens nationwide next week, grossed $120,300 from two theaters (one in New York, on in Los Angeles).
The two locations are the only places in North America the film is screening in Lee’s innovative 120 frames-per-second version (five times the normal rate), in addition to being in 3-D and at 4k resolution.
Playing in more traditional formats, it got off to a good start in China, where Billy Lynn opened with $11.7 million.
(JAKE COYLE, AP Film Writer)