Weekend Forecast for November 7-9, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
November 7, 2014

We're sending Matthew McConaughey into space. All is lost.

In the words of a Christopher Nolan antagonist, “And here. We. Go!” The fall season kicks off in style with two of the biggest profile and most-anticipated films of the year, although both have factors that may limit their opening box office slightly.

Let's start with the film that's getting a small jump on the weekend, Interstellar. Directed by Christopher Nolan (who after Insomnia and Inception, appears to be trying to monopolize the 'In-' portion of your movie library), it's a science-fiction story set in Earth's near future, with environmental damage wreaking havoc on society. After the discovery of a nearby wormhole, an ambitious project is launched to send a spaceship through it to find a new habitable world and ensure the survival of the human race.

Pilot Matthew McConaughey is tasked to lead the mission, at the cost of abandoning his young family. Save the human race or be true to your family: this sounds like the ultimate Christopher Nolan dilemma, perfectly calculated for his “all head, little heart” filmmaking style. It's also as epic a story as it gets, filled with notions of what makes us human, why our drive to explore is crucial to survival, and how we can also be our own worst enemies. The hope is that this is a Contact for this generation, full of the wonder of space travel and discovery.

The cast isn't limited to just McConaughery, with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, (a not publicized) Matt Damon, and several others, but I won't go on. In some ways, this is a high-budget “guys on a mission to get the thing” movie but the director/cast combo plus the science-fiction aspect pushes it to another level. The ads themselves have been spectacular, hitting all the right notes of prestige plus wow factor. Reviews have not been quite as strong as one might think, hinting at some potential weakness in the long run, but it wouldn't be the first time a film like this caught the world by storm without strong critical support. Possibly more worrying is the near three hour run time, although that may be made up for by an IMAX boost. Playing in that format as well as in 70mm film for a grander scope, it's selling the experience of being in a theater as well as the movie itself.

Indeed, in a limited run in just 249 of those venues, it's already claimed a daily #1 spot with $1.5 million on Wednesday. This is likely the lowest screen count to win a day in decades (the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana movie claimed top spot with two and a half times more screens), and certainly bodes well for the anticipation of the film. I'd look for this to open in about the same range as Nolan's previous sci-fi film Inception, with about $57 million.

When Disney bought Marvel, most people were looking at the high-profile properties like Captain America and Iron Man as the important parts of the deal. What makes Disney Disney is that they looked at the Marvel roster of titles and saw hidden gems that they, with their marketing savvy and power, could turn into found money. We saw evidence of that just this summer with Guardians of the Galaxy, a property that likely not 1 in 1000 moviegoers knew was a thing prior to 2014 (even then I'm probably being generous) and made it into the year's highest grossing film. They're trying this again (though one assumes without quite as high of expectations) with Big Hero 6, the first animated film they've produced based on a comic.

An adaptation of a Japanese-themed series, it's set in the city of “San Fransoyko”, a trans-Pacific merging of cultures, and centers around a teenage robotics prodigy named Hiro (who do you think you are Disney, Neal Stephenson?) and his pet balloon robot, invented by his brilliant brother who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and wow that's a lot of plot just for the setup. Anyhow, while investigating his disappearance, Hiro stumbles across a nefarious supervillain's plot involving swarm robotics. Gathering together a team of unlikely specialists, Hiro creates a new superhero team to take on this great danger to the city.

Equal parts The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, Big Hero 6 is perhaps rooted more in the pre-teen demographic that comics are known for more than anything else that's been produced so far in the recent comic renaissance. Just by virtue of being animated, it's already aiming for a younger audience and possibly limiting itself from older movie goers. Then again, it's got an easy charm and an attractive animation style (Disney is clearly learning from Pixar) and a ready made mascot that will sell bajillions of toys to kids this Christmas (whatever Scott Adsit was paid for this, he's underpaid). It's worth noting that Big Hero 6 is Disney's sole release between now and Christmas Day, and they have been pushing it with an appropriate level of urgency. They're gonna make it a hit whether you want it or not. Luckily, you probably want it. This should ultimately win the weekend with $64 million.

Holdovers are a bit of an afterthought this weekend, with Jake Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler likely coming in third with around $6 million, following a narrow loss to the horror film Ouija in its debut. The media thriller did well for its budget but had trouble connecting with larger audiences. Ouija itself should fall to around $6 million with October now just a memory. It should probably finish up with about $50 million.

Fury and Gone Girl have both proven to be somewhat leggy after their release and should slide in at $5 million apiece for their fourth and sixth weekends respectively. Gone Girl is also turning out to be the Ur Example of a fall hit, and should creep up to the $175 million mark, although Oscar attention could change that significantly. I'd also look for The Book of Life and St. Vincent to hit $5 million this weekend.