Hooray, Says Hollywood, As Two Movies Open With $50 Million Weekends

Hollywood liked what it saw over the weekend: Two high-budget movies, targeting different audiences, each took in more than $50 million domestically for their openings and observers expect them to rake in quite a bit more as they hang around through the Thanksgiving holidays and expand their reach.

Disney’s Buena Vista Studio’s  “Big Hero 6,” based on an “obscure” Marvel comic and staring an animated “huggable marshmallow” robot named Baymax et al., grossed $56.2 million in 3,761 theaters, according to Box Office Mojo’s tally, while Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” a sci-fi epic starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, took in an even $50 million for Paramount and Warner Bros. at 3,561 locations — including a healthy dose of Imax and 70mm film screens that take full advantage of its cosmic sweep.



It’s only the “fourth time in history that two films have debuted to more than $50 million at the domestic box office, and each one of the previous occasions took place in the summer, when ticket sales are at their highest,” points out Variety’s Brent Lang.

That’s good news for the moviemakers since both flicks are bearing a hefty production budget of $165 million.

“Executives at studios behind both movies said they plan to continue significant marketing campaigns in the weeks to come, hoping their films will play at least through Thanksgiving,” reports Ben Fritz in the Wall Street Journal.

“Some movies you open and then you move on to the next one,” Megan Colligan, president of worldwide distribution and marketing for Paramount tell Fritz. “With [‘Interstellar’], every single weekend is like opening it again.”

Although 75% of the audience was over 25 from Nov. 7 - 9, Paramount is looking for more teens and young adults to check it out in coming weeks.

“Big Hero 6,” on the other hand, carries a PG rating and “benefited from families heading to the theater on Saturday — and from those who aren’t parents heading to the theater throughout the weekend,” writesEntertainment Weekly’s Ariana Bacle.

“Audience demos that we dive in and take a look at are encouraging in that big portions of our audience are the not-a-parent range,” Dave Hollis, EVP of theatrical exhibition sales and distribution at Disney, tells Bacle.

“Not only is this Walt Disney’s biggest (non-Pixar) weekend debut outside of ‘Frozen’ (which earned $67m of its $93m Thanksgiving weekend over the Fri-Sun frame), but it’s Walt Disney Animation’s biggest stand-alone weekend ever, topping the $49m debut for ‘Wreck It Ralph’ on the first weekend of November in 2012,” Scott Mendelson points out in Forbes.

“That ‘Big Hero 6’ did so well even with an equally 'big' movie like ‘Interstellar’ scooping up audiences (and most of the publicity) shows the strength of the Disney brand and the strong marketing efforts of the Mouse House.”

But age matters.

“It's a testament to the perfectly counter-programmed lineup that two openers chasing two very different audiences paid off for both films, because both were able to grab their respective audiences without cannibalizing each other,” Rentrak's Paul Dergarabedian tellsUSA Today’s Patrick Ryan.

The solid starts position both movies for continued success “if — and only if — word-of-mouth proves positive,” writes the WSJ’s Fritz, observing that “Big Hero 6” scored better both with critics and audiences. “Big Hero 6” hit 91% on the Rotten Tomatometer; “Interstellar,” which is almost three hours long and was knocked by critics for both “garbled” and for “pompous” dialogue, is at 74%.

One thing that’s sure to keep word of mouth going with a movie like “Interstellar” is the question of just how plausible the plot line is, what with — spoiler alert — people returning from space travel physically younger than the children they left behind and all. To assist those discussions, Caltech physicist Kip Thorne, who served as an adviser and is an executive producer of the movie, has writtenThe Science of Interstellar.

“If you’re one of the estimated 3 gajillion people who have seen or will see Chris Nolan’s blockbuster movie ‘Interstellar,’ one thing is already clear to you: this is not a documentary. That means it’s fiction, specifically science fiction, which is how you get the sci and the fi in the sci-fi pairing,” writesTime’s Jeffrey Kluger in one of a plethora of fact-checking articles orbiting the web in recent days. “So if you go into the movie looking for a lot of scientific ‘gotcha’ moments, let’s stipulate up front that you’re going to find some.”

But worm holes that would allow you to skip from one side of the universe to the other? “Mostly true.”

Now if we could only figure out how to apply that concept to cross-town traffic, we’d have ourselves a tidy little business to promote.

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