Box Office: 'Interstellar' Wins Wednesday With $1.4 Million in Limited Launch

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Christopher Nolan's space epic is opening two days early in theaters projecting in film; overseas, 'Interstellar' opens to $743,000 in France

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar opened to No. 1 at the North American box office Wednesday with $1.4 million from 250 theaters across the country still equipped to play film.

Those locations — getting the space epic two days early, per Nolan's wishes — represent about 5 percent to 8 percent of the total box office. Interstellar is doing sizeable business in Imax and 70mm runs, as well as in larger 35mm theaters, but is slower in mom-and-pop locations projecting in 35mm.

On Friday, Interstellar opens opens everywhere as it goes up against Disney's family animated film Big Hero 6 for the weekend crown. 

So far, comparisons are difficult because of the unusual rollout engineered by Paramount, which partnered with Warner Bros. on the $165 million tentpole.

Read more 'Interstellar' Film Review

Interstellar's running time — at 169 minutes, it is Nolan's longest film — is sure to cut into the bottom line, and it's dividing critics as well. The film 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.

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). Interstellar is a sizeable gamble and will have to do impressive business globally.

On Wednesday, Interstellar opened to an excellent $743,000 in France on Wednesday.

In North America, most tracking services have Interstellar and Big Hero 6 grossing between $50 million and $55 million for the three-day weekend in North America, while more bullish observers believe Big Hero 6 could approach $60 million.

Read more 'Interstellar's' Christopher Nolan, Stars Gather to Reveal Secrets of the Year's Most Mysterious Film

If that's right, this weekend will be only the fourth time in history that two films sharing the marquee have opened to $50 million or higher. 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.

According to prerelease surveys, Interstellar is generating at least as much interest as last year's space epic Gravity, which opened to $55.8 million. Nolan, architect of The Dark Knight trilogy, is far more of a known brand than Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron was when that film was released. Nolan's last movie, Inception, launched to $62.8 million domestically in July 2010, but Paramount insiders caution that Inception had the advantage of playing in summer.

Watch THR's Interstellar discussion with Nolan and the stars below.

Nov. 6, 8:45 a.m. Updated with Wednesday numbers.

Nov. 6, 2:30 a.m. Updated with international numbers.