Hollywood rolls out two big movies this week that could debut with more than $50 million apiece at the box office, a feat that's only happened three other times in history.
The release of
Studios and movie chains are still holding out hope that ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada might come close to matching last year's record of $10.9 billion. The current box office is down almost 4% year to date.
"In the wake of a summer that ended up down 15%, we needed the post-summer period to perform," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Rentrak. "Otherwise we were just going to get this negative momentum situation. Luckily, right when we needed it, the fall season has delivered."
A weekend with two big movies is not always the best-case scenario for studios, which worry that their films will suffer from such direct competition. But the two films launching this week — one animated family, the other sci-fi action — will draw completely opposite crowds to movie theaters, allowing both to flourish.
The right combinations have been box-office magic.
In June 2013, "Monsters University" opened to $82.4 million and
"Big Hero 6" could open to $70 million, putting it slightly ahead of the roughly $60-million forecast for "Interstellar," according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
The new releases would provide a much-needed boost for the film industry after a group of successful fall movies, including 20th Century Fox's "Gone Girl" and
The studio hoped that the midweek release would help generate buzz for the film. It used a similar tactic in 2011 with the launch of "Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol" five days before the film opened in wide release. The action film, starring
Nolan's almost three-hour film follows Cooper (
The film, co-financed by Paramount and Warner Bros., cost about $165 million to make.
Heavy marketing also played a large part in the lead-up to the release. The studios partnered with Google to create an immersive website called "The Interstellar Space Hub." They also partnered with Fandango and Vice Media's Motherboard channel to create a sweepstakes that would send one ticket buyer to the edge of space.
Many observers are likening Nolan's latest film to Alfonso Cuarón's 3-D space drama "Gravity," which opened with a robust $55.6 million in October 2013 — the biggest October debut to date.
Meanwhile, Disney's "Big Hero 6," which also cost about $165 million to make, will open in 3,761 theaters this weekend.
Directed by Disney veterans Don Hall (
The CG-animated film follows a rebellious robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) and a guileless healthcare robot named Baymax (
The film comes on the heels of Disney's 2013 hit "Frozen," the winter musical that went on to become the highest grossing animated film of all time. It has generated more than $1 billion in ticket sales worldwide.