Weekend Box Office (November 7 - 9, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Hollywood's lucrative holiday movie season kicked off with two event films which both connected with their respective audiences delivering a potent one-two punch driving the box office to its best sales in three months. Disney's animated action-comedy Big Hero 6 opened at number one with $56.2M from 3,761 locations for a muscular $14,947 average, according to final studio figures. It was precisely on target with the studio's weekend estimate reported on Sunday morning.

This was the second best toon opening of the year trailing only the $69.1M bow of February's The LEGO Movie which finished its domestic run with about 3.75 times that amount. The PG-rated Hero was based on a lesser-known Marvel property and came into the marketplace as a crowd-pleaser that could play to many audiences. Reviews were very good and paying audiences also were quite pleased as the CinemaScore grade was a sturdy A.

Families made up the bulk of the audience at 72%. Given the comic-based nature of the source material, and that the new sci-fi pic Interstellar lured away fanboys this weekend, Big Hero 6 could branch out in the weeks to come to non-family moviegoers. Baymax and pals had broad appeal as the male/female split was dead even. Studios love to open toon tentpoles in early November for the long runs that could follow boosted by school holidays this month like Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. Breaking $200M domestic is certainly possible. Hero opened a few notches ahead of the $49M debut weekend of Wreck-It Ralph, another fanboy-type toon unleashed in early November. Saturday's healthy 52% boost indicates good word-of-mouth.

Globally, Big Hero 6 will take its time to roll out with many key territories waiting for the Christmas season or even January for its openings. Russia launched two weeks before the U.S. to capitalize on local school holidays and has grossed a solid $18.2M to date. Japan opens December 20 and should be one of the top-grossing territories since Disney toons do gangbusters there plus Hero has many Japanese influences in the film. China has not yet been dated.

Opening in second place was Christopher Nolan's new sci-fi epic Interstellar with Paramount reporting a final gross of $47.5M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Early shows on IMAX screens and film prints began on Tuesday night putting the cume at $52.2M. That was significantly lower than what the studio estimated on Sunday morning when they claimed the weekend would reach $50M and the cume would be $52.2M. It was a solid opening anyway, but Paramount's reporting was too high and not realistic for this type of movie at this time of year. Its projected 21% Sunday decline was well below normal levels and indeed it came in as a 33% drop.

Playing in 3,561 locations, including 368 IMAX screens, the PG-13 saga averaged a robust $13,342 per theater over the weekend period. Reviews were generally good, but were not positive across the board.

The $50M weekend figure reported by Paramount was an aggressive number. It included a very optimistic decline for Sunday which was much lower than what all other studios reported for their wide releases this weekend. Other live-action pics all projected Sunday drops of 35-50%. Even animated films which normally hold up well Saturday-to-Sunday were projecting larger Sunday declines. And on this same weekend last year, even with Monday being a holiday, all live-action films in the top ten suffered Sunday declines of 32% or higher. Mathematically and historically speaking, Interstellar reported a Sunday decline that was not at all understandable for this time of year.

However, that low drop did conveniently make the weekend estimate a nice and even round number which looked better in news reports than something in the $40M range. Paramount got the better headlines which most media do not revise on Monday when the real numbers come in. Fall films have football to compete with on Sundays which are especially distracting for movies that appeal to older men. Plus schools are in session on Monday so comparing Interstellar to summer films would not give a true picture.

Opening weekend Sunday drops for other live-action films in the October-November corridor include 35% for Captain Phillips, 34% for Gravity, 31% for 2012, and 29% for Skyfall which had an observed holiday Monday for Veterans Day. In the end, Interstellar fell into this range and was not close to 21%. Many industry insiders questioned Paramount's reporting earlier this year for the opening weekend of its high-profile sequel Transformers: Age of Extinction. Most with access to the same data pegged the weekend at roughly $98M (still a great number) but the studio reported an even $100M.

Despite the difference in numbers, Interstellar still opened with muscle especially for an original 2D film that runs nearly three hours. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine, the space travel saga skewed older as expected with studio research showing that 75% of the crowd was over 25. Cross-gender appeal was strong - especially for this genre - as the male/female split was 52/48. Interstellar drew upon the starpower of the cast as well as the brand name of Nolan who ranks today as among the top directors in Hollywood.

Compared to other sci-fi films, Interstellar opened below Gravity's $55.8M and the $51.1M of Prometheus. Both of those benefitted from 3D surcharges, especially the Sandra Bullock hit which made the bulk of its cash from 3D screens. So it can be argued that Interstellar and Gravity both attracted roughly the same amount of people on opening weekend. Gravity was about half as long of a film, but with multiplexes having more flexibility in early November to offer multiple screens, there were plenty of showtimes to absorb demand for Interstellar. Nolan's last film The Dark Knight Rises had the same length as Interstellar but still opened to a massive $160.9M. Avatar, an original sci-fi film from a beloved director, also had a similar length and opened to $77M. It had 3D surcharges, but also lower 2009 prices, half as many IMAX screens, plus a major blizzard shutting down many theaters. Long movies can still open huge.

The wide release kicked off on Friday with $16.9M but Saturday increased by only 8% to $18.3M. And this is with some of that upfront demand being taken away by the special midweek showings. Gravity saw a much better 32% Saturday boost. Add in Interstellar's so-so B+ CinemaScore and it becomes unclear what future weeks will have in store. The sci-fi pic has generated a wide variety of opinions from those who have seen it. Luckily, it has only mild competition on its second weekend.

More than one third of the weekend gross for Interstellar came from higher-priced premium large format screens. 368 IMAX screens grossed $13.4M for 26% of the total while other PLF screens collected $5.2M, or 10.5%. Nolan has long used IMAX cameras to film parts of his movies.

Overseas, Interstellar commanded a terrific $82.9M opening weekend from 62 markets for a worldwide launch of $132M. All key territories opened day and date this weekend except for China which launches Wednesday and Japan which opens on November 22. Korea easily led the international markets with $14.1M. IMAX delivered a hot $7.2M from 206 screens which will be joined later this week by over 170 additional screens in China. Budgeted at $165M, Interstellar looks well on its way to grossing north of $500M worldwide which is a tough stratosphere to reach for a non-franchise film.

Leading the fall leftovers was the unstoppable David Fincher thriller Gone Girl which slipped only 27% in its sixth weekend to $6.2M. The Fox release has now amassed an impressive $145.5M which is the best ever for the director and now third highest in Ben Affleck's career after his big-budget Michael Bay flicks Armageddon ($201.6M in 1998) and Pearl Harbor ($198.5M in 2001). Two-time chart-topper Ouija followed with $5.9M, off 45%, for a new total of $43.3M for Universal.

Brad Pitt's tank drama Fury grossed $5.6M, down 36%, putting Sony at $69.4M to date. Well-reviewed indie pics with wide distribution followed. St. Vincent dipped only 25% to $5.4M while Nightcrawler fell 49% in its sophomore frame to $5.4M. New sums are $27.1M for The Weinstein Co. and $19.6M for Open Road. The Keanu Reeves actioner John Wick dropped 48% to $4.1M giving Lionsgate $34.8M so far.

Kidpics rounded out the top ten. The Steve Carell hit Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day declined by 46% to $3.5M for a $59.3M total for Disney. Fox's toon The Book of Life tumbled 66% with Baymax stealing away kids this weekend. The $2.8M take lifted the cume to $45.2M.

Another Oscar hopeful saw a successful platform launch as the Stephen Hawking drama The Theory of Everything bowed to $208,763 from only five locations in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto for a scorching $41,753 average. Earning good but not great reviews, the Focus release will slowly expand in the weeks ahead. Eddie Redmayne is currently seen as one of the front-runners in the Best Actor race this awards season.

The top ten films grossed $142.6M which was down 10% from last year when Thor: The Dark World opened at number one with $85.7M; and down 11% from 2012 when Skyfall debuted in the top spot with $88.4M.

Compared to projections, Big Hero 6 and Interstellar both opened close to my respective forecasts of $58M and $53M.

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Watch the NEW trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Read the NEW Blu-ray review for Maleficent.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Dumb and Dumber To and Beyond the Lights both open.

# Title Nov 7 - 9 Oct 31 - Nov 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Big Hero 6 $ 56,215,889 3,761 1 $ 14,947 $ 56,215,889 Disney
2 Interstellar 47,510,360 3,561 1 13,342 49,661,813 Paramount
3 Gone Girl 6,207,419 8,480,992 -26.8 2,224 6 2,791 145,535,841 Fox
4 Ouija 5,870,170 10,740,980 -45.3 2,680 3 2,190 43,325,255 Universal
5 Fury 5,628,450 8,819,506 -36.2 2,834 4 1,986 69,396,679 Sony
6 St. Vincent 5,405,967 7,226,450 -25.2 2,455 5 2,202 27,054,998 Weinstein Co.
7 Nightcrawler 5,373,560 10,441,600 -48.5 2,766 2 1,943 19,618,437 Open Road
8 John Wick 4,138,157 7,994,044 -48.2 2,152 3 1,923 34,807,816 Lionsgate
9 Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible... 3,539,920 6,585,707 -46.2 2,381 5 1,487 59,253,290 Disney
10 The Book of Life 2,754,003 8,206,797 -66.4 2,166 4 1,271 45,168,928 Fox
11 Birdman 2,311,866 2,390,377 -3.3 460 4 5,026 8,098,118 Fox Searchlight
12 The Judge 1,759,172 3,364,195 -47.7 1,215 5 1,448 42,568,417 Warner Bros.
13 The Best of Me 1,402,036 2,736,279 -48.8 1,110 4 1,263 24,490,377 Relativity
14 The Maze Runner 1,236,615 2,272,263 -45.6 1,012 8 1,222 98,946,102 Fox
15 Dracula Untold 1,053,770 2,983,825 -64.7 830 5 1,270 54,908,425 Universal
16 The Equalizer 915,241 1,782,064 -48.6 616 7 1,486 98,016,523 Sony
17 Annabelle 531,176 1,959,047 -72.9 630 6 843 83,505,687 Warner Bros.
18 Guardians of the Galaxy 419,918 563,687 -25.5 296 15 1,419 330,009,017 Disney
19 Dear White People 392,421 743,175 -47.2 177 4 2,217 3,527,814 Roadside Attr.
20 Before I Go To Sleep 331,708 1,843,347 -82.0 820 2 405 2,963,012 Clarius
Top 5 $ 121,432,288 $ 46,689,875 160.1
Top 10 142,643,895 74,844,096 90.6
Top 20 152,997,818 90,680,299 68.7
Top 20 vs. 2013 152,997,818 164,802,539 -7.2

Last Updated: November 10, 2014 at 4:50PM ET

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