Box Office: ‘Interstellar,’ ‘Big Hero 6’ Eye Record-Breaking Weekend

Interstellar” and “Big Hero 6” collide at the multiplexes this weekend, igniting one of the fiercest box office battles of the year.

Both films are eyeing debuts in the $55 million range, with “Big Hero 6” maintaining a slight advantage. Some analysts expect that the animated Walt Disney release will hit or even pass $60 million in domestic receipts.

“It’s finally a weekend to be excited about for moviegoers,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “There hasn’t been this much fervor about going to the movies since ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ opened.”

If projections hold, it will be only the fourth time in history that two films have opened to north of $50 million on the same weekend. In each case, the films have opened in the summer and the two pictures have been a live action film and an animated one. The family friendly productions always ultimately prevailed. The most recent example was 2013’s match-up between “World War Z” and “Monster’s University.”

The competition should galvanize the fall box office, trumping the same period last year when “Thor: The Dark World” opened to $85.7 million.

Interstellar,” director Christopher Nolan’s meditation on wormholes, ecological disaster and the enduring appeal of Matthew McConaughey’s surfer-bro cadence, is getting an early jump on the weekend by opening in late-night screenings Tuesday. By the weekend it will be in 3,500 locations, 369 of which are Imax. Audiences will also be able to see the picture on film stock instead of digital projection in 250 film locations and 42 Imax locations.

Fanboys transformed Nolan from an indie favorite into an above-the-title brand after the success of “The Dark Knight” trilogy and “Inception,” and should turn out in force for his latest big screen epic. The thing that could clip “Interstellar’s” wings is an ongoing critical debate that’s erupted. Some reviewers, such as Variety’s Scott Foundas have hailed the film as a visual marvel, while others such as the New Yorker’s David Denby, found it ponderous and long-winded.

“It probably won’t hurt mid-week sales, but it foreshadows that the word-of-mouth is going to be mixed,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com “It indicates this is artsier and more out there than maybe people expected.”

Paramount Pictures is distributing the $165 million production Stateside, with Warner Bros. handling the foreign rollout. “Interstellar” will debut simultaneously around the world, with a few exceptions. It premieres in China on Nov. 12, Japan on Nov. 22 and Venezuela on Dec. 5.

Despite cinephiles’ excitement for “Interstellar,” “Big Hero 6” will be able to shine because it caters to a different, younger demographic. Loosely based on a Marvel Comics series of the same name, the film follows a science prodigy and his lovable robot as they stumble upon a criminal conspiracy. Co-directed by Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) and Chris Williams (“Bolt”) the film’s voice cast features Scott Adsit, Damon Wayans Jr. and Maya Rudolph.

It debuts in 3,761 theaters and, like “Interstellar,” carries a production budget of $165 million.

Overseas, the film got a jump on its U.S. debut by opening in Russia last week. It picked up $10.3 million, while taking advantage of school holidays in the country. The film’s setting — a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo — should help boost its overseas appeal. The going will be slow, however. “Big Hero 6” will begin to hit foreign territories in earnest in December and will continue debuting internationally into 2015.

After being obscured by the success of Pixar for the better part of a decade, Walt Disney Animation has reemerged, putting together an impressive series of hits such as “Frozen” and “Wreck It Ralph.” “Big Hero 6” should be another entry in the win column.

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