Disney's animated Big Hero 6 topped Hollywood heavyweight Interstellar – directed by fanboy favourite Christopher Nolan, and starring Matthew McConaughey and Anny Hathaway – at the box office last weekend, rushing out of the gate to $56.2 million.
"It (Big Hero 6) really is something that's as appealing for an older audience as it is for a younger audience," said Dave Hollis, the executive vice president of distribution at Disney, the studio behind Big Hero (EW.com). "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."
Interstellar still had a stellar (ha-ha) weekend, with $50 million in popcorn and punched tickets. Okay, just punched tickets. But popcorn was still sold, I'm sure, and that's good news for the theatre industry and for the movie business.
"Between Big Hero 6 and Interstellar, the studios had a grand ol' time at the domestic box office: Both grossed more than $50 million, just the fourth time two films have broken the $50 million mark in one weekend," writes Grantland's John Lopez., who says the last time that happened was 14 months-plus prior, with World War Z and Monsters University.
"But to give you an idea of how deep a pit Hollywood dug itself this summer, the top 10 movies still grossed almost eight per cent less this weekend than last year, meaning 2014 remains down 3.8 per cent: $8.7 billion year to date versus $9.1 billion at the same time in 2013. And most shockingly, the big winner this weekend was not St. Christopher the Redeemer of 70mm Film, but..."
The answer to that '...' is Big Hero 6, by the way.
The Theory of Everything
But it was a weekend of assumed quality as well, with two other movies – The Theory of Everything and Dear White People – getting limited but critically acclaimed releases, sort of. (More on what 'sort of' means below.)
Everything, which tells the story of world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking, pulled in $41,400 per theatre in five theatres in L.A. and New York. The film stars Eddie Redmayne as Hawking and Felicity Jones as his first wife, Jane.
The film currently has a 76 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"More than a portrait of Hawking the scientist, this is a frank dissection of his long and complicated first marriage (to Jane Wilde, on whose memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen the film is based)," writes Slate's Dana Stevens, in her generally positive review. "Jones and Redmayne are both superb as a devoted but imperfect pair of headstrong people trying, and sometimes failing, to treat each other with care and respect.
"In a technically demanding but resolutely unmawkish performance, Redmayne communicates young Stephen's rage at the prospect of his own physical degeneration, as well as the shame he feels about his growing dependence on his wife and other caretakers."
Dear White People
In the much-anticipated (and award-winning) satire Dear White People, Tessa Thompson stars as a young black woman who starts a college talk radio show that carries the film's title.
The movie – set at an Ivy League-ish school called Winchester – has been released in drips, first on October 17 after it premiered last January at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
It has a 91 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Dear White People is the name of Justin Simien's first feature film, and I'll say right away that it is as smart and fearless a debut as I have seen from an American filmmaker in quite some time: knowing but not snarky, self-aware but not solipsistic, open to influence and confident in its own originality," writes the New York Times' A.O. Scott.
"It's a clever campus comedy that juggles a handful of hot potatoes — race, sex, privilege, power — with elegant agility and only an occasional fumble. You want to see this movie, and you will want to talk about it afterward, even if the conversation feels a little awkward. If it doesn't, you're doing it wrong. There is great enjoyment to be found here, and very little comfort."