Box-Office Preview: 'Interstellar,' 'Big Hero 6' Set to Rocket Past $50 Million in U.S. Debut

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Many believe 'Big Hero 6' will beat Christopher Nolan's pricey space epic this weekend

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and Disney's animated family film Big Hero 6 are expected to blast past the $50 million mark at the North American box office this weekend, the big question being: by how much?

Many box-office observers believe Big Hero 6 has a strong shot of beating Interstellar this coming weekend. Interstellar actually opens Wednesday in roughly 250 theaters equipped to project 35 mm and 70 mm film, per Nolan's wishes, and could rack up $5 million to $6 million for Paramount and Warner Bros. before Friday. 

Most tracking services have the two movies grossing between $50 million and $55 million for the three-day weekend, while more bullish observers believe Big Hero 6 could approach $60 million.

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.

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Interstellar's running time — at 169 minutes, it is Nolan's longest film — is sure to cut into the bottom line, but a berth in Imax theaters should help soften the blow. Interstellar stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as astronauts trying to save the human race. The ensemble cast also includes Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine. Paramount is handling the movie domestically, while Warners has overseas duties.

As mentioned earlier, the space epic has a limited release on Wednesday and opens everywhere Friday. Overseas, Interstellar launches in almost every market on either Nov. 6 or 7, save for China (Nov. 12), Japan (Nov. 22) and Venezuela (Dec. 5). Interstellar is a sizeable gamble, considering it cost $165 million to make, and will have to do impressive business globally.

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. 

Big Hero 6 hopes to continue Disney Animation Studios' winning streak at the box office following last year's Frozen.

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

Inspired by Marvel characters, the action comedy-adventure 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.

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).

Last year, Frozen debuted to $67.4 million over Thanksgiving weekend.