Christopher Nolan may be the man who “rebooted the blockbuster,” according to a recent Guardian feature, but it appears that chinks are starting to appear in what was once seen as an unassailable armor. Despite early projections that saw the film debuting north of $60 million, Paramount’s “Interstellar” could not surpass $50 million in its opening weekend or nab the top slot. Instead, in one of 2014’s most surprising box-office showings, Disney’s animated “Big Hero 6” bested Nolan’s epic space odyssey by a considerable margin. Clearly four quadrant and family friendly, audiences came out in droves to “Big Hero 6” to the tune of $56 million, even without much Marvel help (it’s an adaptation of a Marvel property, but that studio shied away from additional promotion as they felt it really wasn’t one of their babies).
“Interstellar” now marks the lowest-grossing Nolan opening since “The Prestige” in 2006. Even “Inception,” which also boasted IMAX sequences, opened up to $62 million in 2010. It’s also the first time a Nolan picture has not debuted at #1 since “Insomnia” in 2002. Even Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” opened up higher last year ($55 million) around the same release frame. So what “went wrong” (if you want to look at it like that)? Well, several factors are obviously at play. Audiences only gave the movie B+ Cinemascore suggesting that maybe not all Nolan fans were as much on board as they usually are. While that grade certainly isn’t low, one could argue it is low for Nolan who usually has an unimpeachable touch. While “Interstellar” is listed as fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, initial reviews gave the film a critical drubbing (ours is particularly harsh too). One could assume that since “Interstellar” opened early on Wednesday on 35mm & 70mm, that took away from Nolan’s weekend grosses, but Wed-Friday only account for another $2.1 million and would not have put the movie over Disney. That long, 169-minute running time probably didn’t help either. Then there’s the fact that, media-hyped McConaissance aside, McConaughey doesn’t quite have the star power of Leonardo DiCaprio (“Inception”) or Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”). And of course it’s a fool’s errand to compare “Interstellar” to a super hero film these days. A $50 million opening is strong of course, but Paramount was surely looking for something a little higher that would register at #1. It’s a disappointment sure, but not a major one and we’ll see how the film performs over the long haul.
The international story for “Interstellar” was much better. The movie opened with a hefty $80 million worldwide, and $20 million of that was in IMAX, which broke the November opening record previously held by “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” ($17.1M). So a $132.25 million global opening is not bad for a non-franchise, non-super hero, non-genre spectacle picture.
Paramount’s marketing machine drowned out “Big Hero 6” within the media Stateside, but it just didn’t really matter much. “Big Hero 6” did huge numbers and the well-received, well-reviewed movie is Disney’s biggest (non-Pixar) opening outside of “Frozen,” and it bests recent openings by Disney animated films like “Wreck It Ralph” (which used to be Disney’s highest opening animated film not under the Pixar umbrella). So, sequel much? Don’t be surprised if it’s announced soon, and a terrific start like this only means the movie is very likely going to have good legs that will play into the holidays (though DreamWorks’ “The Penguins of Madagascar” could eat up some of the same audience). “Big Hero 6” has only opened in a few markets globally, so the international haul only added another $23 million to its worldwide total.
Elsewhere at the box office, David Fincher’s “Gone Girl,” Weinstein Company’s “St. Vincent,” and “Ouija” all had strong-to-decent holds. 20th Century Fox’s “Gone Girl” has been in theaters for six weeks and its theater count has fallen by around 600 screens, but the film is still at the #3 slot. The movie only fell 28% and it’s actually gone up in ranking as it was at the #4 position these last two weekends because of Sony’s “Fury.” But while the Brad Pitt-starring WWII movie demonstrated a good hold in its first few weekends, it is certainly underperforming in comparison. “Gone Girl” just crossed $300 million worldwide this weekend and “Fury” hasn’t connected at all overseas, having just crossed $100 million worldwide this weekend. It’s likely to go down as the lowest-grossing Brad Pitt film since the early aughts, and domestically it might not even match the $75 million that the baseball drama “Moneyball” earned in 2011. Back to “Gone Girl”: at this rate it should be able to outgross the $333 million that “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” earned in 2008 to become Fincher’s highest grossing film of all time.
A low-budget horror that’s still in the top 5 after three weeks? These films tend to peak high opening weekend and vanish subsequently, so “Ouija” is showing a pretty good hold so far. The Weinstein Company’s “St. Vincent,” starring Bill Murray, is having one of the best platform releases of 2014, and if it gets Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, this dramedy could stay in theaters for weeks. The movie has been slowly expanding into wider markets and only dropped an incredibly low 21% in its second week of wide release. It has made $27 million in five weeks, three of them limited. Meanwhile, Open Road’s Jake Gyllenhaal-starring “Nightcrawler” didn’t have a spectacular opening ($10 million), but grossing $20 million in two weeks for an indie is quite impressive. The picture did fall 47.2% in its second week, but that’s still a decent number, and if it can hold on, it’s going to see decent grosses against its relatively low $8 million budget.
“John Wick,” “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” and “The Book Of Life” look to be close to concluding their box-office business inside the top 10 after three, five, and four weeks respectively, but they’ve all done decent numbers against their relatively small budgets (“John Wick” not withstanding at $20 million), especially ‘Alexander’ which filled the family audience gap and has grossed almost $60 million at home.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight’s “Birdman” soared once again and nearly cracked the top 10, and it’s still in less than 500 theaters (462 to be exact). The movie grossed $2.3 million for a strong 4th week $4,978 per screen average. But the real story in limited release was “The Theory Of Everything,” which had a phenomenal opening weekend. In only five theaters, the awards-contending drama about the life and love of Stephen Hawking grossed $207k for a fantastic $41.4k per screen average; the 5th highest of 2014.
Minor milestones: “Dracula Untold” has reached the $200 million mark worldwide, “The Equalizer” is looming close to $200 million globally, and the horror “Annabelle” has grossed a spectacular $244 million around the planet. “Guardians of The Galaxy” is the #2 movie of the year worldwide with at $768 million, and it’s had phenomenal success this year, but it won’t be able to best “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which should end the year with the title of highest-grossing movie of 2014 worldwide.
1. Big Hero 6 — $56,200,000
2. Interstellar — $50,000,000 ($52.1M)
3. Gone Girl — $6,100,000 ($145.4M)
4. Ouija — $6,017,000 ($43.4M)
5. St. Vincent — $5,707,000 ($27.3M)
6. Nightcrawler — $5,512,000 ($19.7M)
7. Fury — $5,500,000 ($69.2M)
8. John Wick — $4,075,000 ($34.7M)
9. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day — $3,495,000 ($59.2M)
10. The Book of Life — $2,800,000 ($45.2M)