It may be about 50 years older, but “Doctor Who” just showed young whippersnapper “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” who’s boss at the box office Monday, beating the per-screen average for the teenpocalypse blockbuster and coming in number two overall with a stunning $4.77 million.
While “Catching Fire” has dominated overall, getting a stunning $158 million from Thursday to Sunday, “Doctor Who” held its own with a one-time theatrical screening of the 50th Anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” on Saturday night. That showing only took in $204,000 in the U.S., but a shocking $2.91 million in the U.K.
The real story hit Monday though, as with one more sold out screening Monday night, and some theaters adding a second screening due to overflow, the per theater average ended up $7,155 for “Doctor Who,” and $2,623 for “Catching Fire.” Not only that, but “Doctor Who” was number two overall, beating both “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Best Man Holiday.”
Though one could argue that “Doctor Who’s” 50th Anniversary is a one time event, and there’s been over a year of hyping up the fanbase for the landmark special, is that really different than how any other blockbuster movie is treated? Could ” he Day of the Doctor” gone even bigger if given a full theatrical run? We doubt it could have gone toe-to-toe with “Catching Fire” in as wide a release (“Doctor Who” played in 660 theaters Monday, versus “Catching Fire’s” 4,000+); but on another weekend, with a true wide release, could the now world-wide phenomenon grow even bigger?
And an even better question: when will we be getting the true big-screen “Doctor Who” movie that now seems inevitable?
Whenever something makes money, and as much money as “Doctor Who” did the past few days, conversations get started, and in this case, rightfully so. Except “Doctor Who,” even with fifty years of television behind it, hasn’t had an easy path to the big screen.
In 1965 and 1966, two movies were released in UK theaters, both adaptations of previous “Doctor Who” serials. The films were unconnected to the TV series, starring Peter Cushing as “Dr. Who,” and featured reinterpretations of signature villains The Daleks, as well as the main character’s time travelling police box. Though both films have their defenders, they garnered mostly negative reviews and have largely been ignored by fans.
In 2010, rumors began swirling that Johnny Depp would play an American version of The Doctor in a big screen adventure. That turned out to just be a rumor, but later Executive Producer Steven Moffat stated he had considered the idea of Depp for a one-off; but on the TV show. It’s possible the theatrical rumor started there, but again it was just a rumor.
Then in 2011, “Harry Potter” director David Yates stated his intention to make a “Doctor Who” film also unconnected from the currently running TV series. Though Yates stated the BBC was on board, Moffat shot down the idea saying that any film interpretation of The Doctor would tie into the TV series, end of story.
And that’s where we were, until “Day of The Doctor” broke records in movie theaters this weekend.
So where do we go from there? The idea of translating a TV series to screen has had mixed results: for every “Star Trek,” there’s a “The X-Files.” But there’s a financial impetus now, and that often trumps all mentions of quality.
There’s also a few potential obstacles to deal with: why would BBC want a movie to compete with their TV show; and when could they possibly release a film when the show is ongoing?
First of all, anyone worried that a big screen interpretation would conflict with TV ratings? Worry not. BBC Films is extremely active, and if they took control of a movie continuation would have an architecture in place to release the movie. They also have experience collaborating with Hollywood studios, which would amp the budget up considerably. Plus, a big budget movie will drive DVD sales and merchandise which is where the real money is anyway.
Second of all the timeline, if rumors are true, works swimmingly. This Christmas, BBC and BBC America will broadcast current Doctor Matt Smith’s last episode. Then Peter Capaldi (“World War Z,” “The Thick of It”) takes over as the new Doctor, though so far it hasn’t been reported how long he’ll be playing the part. Current rumors are that he’ll appear in fourteen episodes over two years. Also a current rumor? Capaldi is the “last” Doctor.
What that means for non-fans: in the continuity of the show there’s only supposed to be thirteen incarnations of the Doctor and then the character dies. With the introduction of John Hurt as an in-between Doctor in “The Day of The Doctor,” Capaldi is the Thirteenth Doctor. It’s a point of contention, because given it’s sci-fi there’s always ways out. But Capaldi is a legit star in the UK, and even a semi-known face around the world, so having him cap off his run with a 2016 premiering film called “Doctor Who: The Death Of The Doctor” would certainly be an event worth putting in movie theaters.
Regardless what tact BBC takes, whether continuing on TV or film, the audience is there for the show like never before. Now if they could just add in a conflicted teen girl from the future who shoots arrows, they’d be unstoppable.