Two nearly foolproof brands in mainstream cinema – Disney Animation Studios and director Christopher Nolan – went head-to-head at the box office this week, but the cartoon heroes finished on top. Big Hero 6 continued the Mouse House’s hot streak, rocketing to #1 with an estimated $56.2 million. That was 15% ahead of the $49 million opening of Disney’s recent action-packed hit Wreck-it Ralph, although it was below Frozen‘s defiant $67.4 million gross on Thanksgiving weekend last year.
Big Hero 6 continued to show the allure of the Disney brand in autumn. With colorful ads that emphasized the film’s action and humor – the latter which really helps to bring in the kids – a big opening was expected. However, Interstellar was considered a big foe, and one that took up many high-format auditoriums. Had Nolan’s sci-fi epic not opened in this frame, Hero would likely have had an even bigger launch. Among big animated openings this year, it was impressively ahead of How to Train Your Dragon’s 2 opening ($49.5 million), although somewhat behind The LEGO Movie ($69.1 million).
With an A CinemaScore and little family competition until The Penguins of Madagascar opens on Nov. 26, Big Hero 6 could have a similar performance as Wreck-it Ralph. If so, it should finish its run with over $200 million domestically. The film had an even split between genders, which bodes well for its longevity as well. 3D grosses accounted for just 29% of the weekend’s gross, which is not too surprising since a reported 72% of the crowd was family audiences. Normally, bringing a family to a cinema is an expensive day out, so many choose to opt out of pricey 3D tickets.
Finishing with solid but unspectacular results in second place was Christopher Nolan’s space odyssey Interstellar, which opened with an estimated $50 million. It sold about the same number of tickets as Gravity did in October 2013, as that film opened with $55.8 million but also benefitted from 3D surcharges. Interstellar marked the biggest opening of Matthew McConaughey’s career, continuing his hot streak this year. Since its two-day launch in IMAX and 70mm presentations, the sci-fi drama has earned $52.2 million.