Box Office: 'Big Hero 6' Overtaking 'Interstellar' Saturday for Heroic U.S. Win

Christopher Nolan's space epic won Friday with $17 million, but families will propel 'Big Hero 6' to a first-place finish for the weekend

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar topped the Friday box office with an estimated $17 million from 3,561 runs, but Disney's animated tentpole Big Hero 6 will blast past the space epic on Saturday to win the North American race with a debut as high as $56 million to $58 million.

Interstellar, doing huge business in 369 Imax runs, is poised to gross $53 million for partners Warner Bros. and Paramount. Like InceptionInterstellar earned a B+ CinemaScore, compared to an A CinemaScore for Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy.

See more Into the Wormhole With Christopher Nolan

Big Hero 6 's performance — it earned $15.8 million Friday from 3,761 runs — is another victory for Disney Animation Studios after Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph. The 3D film earned an A CinemaScore.

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 movie and a 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.

Read more THR's 'Interstellar' Cover Story and Roundtable With Christopher Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain

And that would put Interstellar's five-day domestic debut in the $58 million range. Per Nolan's wishes, his opus opened two days early in 250 theaters equipped to project in film, earning $4.9 million on Wednesday and Thursday.

As fate would have it, Interstellar and Big Hero 6 both cost $165 million to make, so both need to do hefty business globally.

See more Christopher Nolan's Filmography: 'Interstellar,' 'Dark Knight' and 7 Others

Interstellar's running time — at 169 minutes, it is Nolan's longest film — is sure to cut into the bottom line (Big Hero 6 runs 105 minutes). The film, which has divided critics, 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.

Prerelease tracking showed Interstellar generating at least as much interest as last year's space epic Gravity, which debuted to $55.8 million. 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.

Read more Box-Office Milestone: 'Frozen' Becomes No. 1 Animated Film of All Time

Paramount has the movie domestically, while Warners is handling its release overseas, where Interstellar launches in almost every market this week and weekend, save for China (Nov. 12), Japan (Nov. 22) and Venezuela (Dec. 5). 

So far, Interstellar has made a strong showing internationally. On Wednesday, the film opened to an excellent $743,000 in France. It debuted in 35 more markets Thursday, grossing $8.7 million and coming in No. 1 everywhere. Among the international results for Interstellar, the movie opened to $1.8 million in South Korea, followed by Russia ($1.3 million), Germany ($687,000) and Australia ($628,000).

On Friday, when Interstellar opened in another 22 countries, the film grossed $17 million from 62 international markets, bringing its total from those territories to $26.6 million. In the U.K., Interstellar grossed $2.4 million, topping the box office with 60 percent of the top five films. In Australia, where the film was in its second day of release, Interstellar grossed $768,000 on Friday, roughly 50 percent of the top five films, bringing its two-day total to $1.4 million. In South Korea, Interstellar topped the box office with $2.6 million, bringing its two-day total to $4.3 million. In Russia, Interstellar's $1.4 million also accounted for 50 percent of the top five films, bringing its two-day total to $2.7 million. In France, Interstellar was in its third day of release on Friday, earning $731,000 that day, again accounting for 50 percent of the top five films, bringing its total to date to $2 million.

Read more New 'Big Hero 6' Trailer Shows There's More to the Movie Than Baymax

Big Hero 6, inspired by Marvel characters, chronicles the special bond that develops between Baymax (Scott Adsit), a plus-size 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.

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).

At the specialty box office, Focus Features' awards contender The Theory of Everything, starring Eddie Redmayne as a young Stephen Hawking, is performing nicely in its limited launch and could finish the weekend with a theater average of $40,000 or better. It's playing in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Watch THR's interview with Christopher Nolan and the cast of Interstellar below.

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Nov. 7, 10:23 a.m. Updated with foreign numbers.
Nov. 7, 1:20 p.m. Updated with weekend projections.
Nov. 8, 8:45 a.m. Updated with weekend projections.