Conquering one of Hollywood’s most revered directors, Disney’s original animated tentpole Big Hero 6 blasted past Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar to win the domestic box office race with an estimated $56.2 million from 3,761 theaters.
Coming in slightly behind expectations, Interstellar grossed an estimated $50 million from 3,561 locations, putting its five-day debut at $52.2 million for partners Paramount and Warner Bros. Per Nolan’s wishes, the film opened two days early in 250 theaters equipped to project in film, and Paramount is putting those grosses at $2.2 million.
Overseas, Interstellar debuted on par with Gravity in 62 markets, grossing $80 million for a worldwide launch of $132.2 million. Big Hero 6, which is rolling out slowly internationally, grossed $7.6 million for an early foreign total of $23 million and world cume of $79.2 million (it opened two weeks earlier in Russia).
In the U.S., Interstellar began playing everywhere Thursday evening, and Paramount is including $2.7 million in late-night runs in its weekend estimate of $50 million. It’s industry practice for studios to include Thursday night grosses in the weekend number, although this case is unusual, in that Interstellar was already in the marketplace, albeit in limited film runs.
Many rivals have Interstellar earning less than $50 million. The official tally won’t be known until Monday morning.
The movie’s running time — at 169 minutes, it is Nolan’s longest film — is no doubt hurting the bottom line. Interstellar marks Nolan’s lowest domestic opening since The Prestige in 2006 ($14.8 million), and is the first of his films since Insomnia in 2002 not to come in No. 1.
Interstellar has also divided critics, and earned a B+ CinemaScore, compared to an A for Big Hero 6, which runs 105 minutes. Interstellar stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as astronauts trying to save the human race, with the ensemble cast also including Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine.
The space opus did massive business on Imax and premium-large format screens, with Imax locations alone turning in $13.4 million, a record for a non-sequel and the largest percentage ever of the total gross (25 percent). Interstellar skewed slightly male (52 percent), with 75 percent of the audience over the age of 25.
“Interstellar received a B+ CinemaScore, just like Inception. Christopher Nolan doesn’t make the most straightforward movies. They are compelling and sophisticated and our assumption is that, similar to Inception, this movie will play for a very, very long time,” said Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore.
Pre-release tracking showed Interstellar generating at least as much interest as last year’s space epic Gravity, which debuted to $55.8 million (Gravity was only 90 minutes, however). And Nolan’s last non-Dark Knight movie, Inception, grossed $62.8 million when it opened in July 2010, but Paramount insiders note that Inception had the advantage of playing in summer.
Paramount has the movie domestically, while Warners is handling its release overseas, where Interstellar launched, save for China (Nov. 12), Japan (Nov. 22) and Venezuela (Dec. 5).
As fate would have it, Interstellar and Big Hero 6 both cost $165 million to make, so need to do hefty business globally.
Big Hero 6 ‘s performance is another victory for Disney Animation Studios after Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph.
Inspired by Marvel characters, the family film chronicles the special bond that develops between Baymax (Scott Adsit), a plus-sized inflatable robot, and robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), who transforms Baymax and his adrenaline-seeking friends into a band of high-tech heroes determined to help the city of San Fransokyo.
The movie was evenly divided in terms of gender, while families made up 70 percent. For a family film, Big Hero 6 played to more adults than usual.
“I think we went into the weekend hoping that, at the very least, that it would be close. Interstellar is a formidable title to go up against, and Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest living filmmakers, so to beat them by this margin is another sign of the creative momentum underway Disney Animation,” said Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis.
Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Maya Rudolph, Daniel Henney, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell and Alan Tudyk also lend their voices to the 3D movie.
Big Hero 6 is directed by Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt), and produced by Roy Conli (Tangled).
If Sunday’s estimates hold, this weekend will be only the fourth time in history that two films sharing the marquee have opened to $50 million or more. In all three previous instances, they were an animated and live-action movie — Monsters University and World War Z; Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Prometheus; and Wall-E and Wanted — and in all three cases, the animated offering won.
Elsewhere, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl moved back up to No. 3, grossing $6.1 million as it jumped the $300 million mark worldwide, finishing Sunday with total ticket sales of $303.7 million for Fox.
Bill Murray‘s comedy, St. Vincent, moved up the chart to No. 5, enjoying the best hold of any film in the top 10. From The Weinstein Co. and Chernin Entertainment, the movie declined 21 percent to $5.7 million for a cume of $27.4 million.
At the specialty box office, Focus Features’ awards contender The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne as a young Stephen Hawking, performed nicely in its New York and Los Angeles launch, grossing $207,000 from five theaters for a location average of $41,000, one of the best of the year.
Here are the estimated top 10 films for the weekend of Nov. 7-Nov. 9 at the domestic box office:
Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Weekend Total, Percentage Change, Cume
1. Big Hero 6, 1/3,761, Disney, $56.2 million
2. Interstellar, 1/3,561, Paramount/Warner Bros., $50 million $52.2 million
3. Gone Girl, 6/2,224, Fox/New Regency, $6.1 million, -28%, $145.4 million
4. Ouija, 3/2,680, Universal, $6 million, -44%, $43.5 million
5. St. Vincent, 5/2,455, The Weinstein Co., $5.7 million, -21%, $27.4 million
6. Nightcrawler, 2/2,766, Open Road Films, $5.51 million, -47, $19.8 million
7. Fury, 4/2,834, Sony/QED, $5.5 million, -38%, $69.3 million
8. John Wick, 3/2,152, Lionsgate, $4.1 million, -49%, $34.7 million
9. Alexander…Very Bad Day, 5/2,381, Disney, $3.5 million, -47%, $59.2 million
10. The Book of Life, 4/2,166, Fox/ReelFX, $2.8 million, -66%, $45.2 million
Watch THR‘s interview with Christopher Nolan and the cast of Interstellar below:
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Nov. 9, 10 a.m. Updated with foreign numbers.