Doctor Strange was just what the doctor ordered for Walt Disney's (DIS - Get Report) Marvel unit, taking the top spot in the weekend box office with a solid $85 million opening. It blew past 21st Century Fox's (FOX) Trolls, which earned nearly $46 million, and Lions Gate's (LGF) Hacksaw Ridge, which came in third with $14.75 million.
Doctor Strange's debut pales in comparison to other Marvel releases such as The Avengers, which earned $207 million domestically in its opening weekend, but had biggest opening weekend among Marvel movies that introduce a single character since 2008's Iron Man, which opened at $98 million. Analyst MKM projected Doctor Strange would draw $72 million during its opening weekend.
Disney's Marvel continues to be a superhero powerhouse relative to competitors including Time Warner's (TWX) Warner Brothers.
"It seems that Marvel can do no wrong, and even when they go to their bench of characters they knock it out of the proverbial universe," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, according to CNNMoney. "The Marvel team has perfected their secret sauce to the point where no matter what genre or character they chose to explore, audiences want to go along for the ride."
Disney got a shot in the arm from the film, too, its stock up 2% at Monday's close. The company has been the subject of speculation after a recent Nielsen (NLSN - Get Report) report said ESPN pay-TV subscribers fell by 3.1% in October, the largest consecutivemonth decline in its history. ESPN generates about half of Disney's total profits.
Disney is expected to comment on the report when it posts its fourth-quarter earnings after Thursday's market close.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet are looking for earnings of $1.16 per share on revenue of $13.52 billion for the period. Sales in its media networks unit are projected to be $5.65 billion. In 2015, Disney earned $1.20 per share with $13.51 billion in revenue during the same quarter. The company's media networks unit saw $5.8 billion in revenue.