Los Angeles (Reuters, Agence France-Presse) - Walt Disney Co's animated superhero film Big Hero 6 proved to have superpowers, clocking US$56.2 million (S$72.4 million) and topping director Christopher Nolan' space adventure Interstellar to lead the North American weekend box office, industry estimates showed on Sunday.
The heavily hyped Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey, came in second with US$50 million. It had opened on Wednesday and recorded US$52.2 million over its five-day run.
If the final figures hold up, it would be only the fourth time in history that two new films had hit the US$50 million mark on the same debut weekend, the last time being June 2013 with Monsters University and World War Z, box office tracking firm Rentrak said.
Worldwide, Interstellar made US$132.2 million, more than Big Hero 6's US$79.2 million.
Inspired by a Marvel comic of the same name, Big Hero 6 is set in a fictional futuristic metropolis called Sanfransokyo, in which a 14-year-old computer whiz kid fashions a team of superheroes out of students from a university robotics lab. With the help of a waddling, 183cm-tall personal healthcare robot called Baymax, the team defeats a masked villain who harnesses the power of microbots to wreck havoc on the city.
Interstellar, co-starring Anne Hathaway, features a team of space travellers who move through a wormhole in search of a habitable planet after blight and dust storms render Earth unlivable.
Made for US$165 million, the film was financed by Warner Brothers, Paramount and Legendary Pictures. The film's US$13.4 million from large-format Imax screens set a record for a November opening, as well for the biggest percentage of the total take for a first-run release.
Initially linked to director Steven Spielberg, Paramount turned the film over to Nolan after Spielberg struck a deal with Disney in 2009. Nolan brought a huge following from sci-fi and comic book fans from his successes with the Dark Knight Batman films and Inception (2010).
Gone Girl, director David Fincher's hit thriller starring Ben Affleck as a husband suspected of murdering his wife, was third with US$6.1 million, according to estimates from Rentrak. It has taken in more than US$145 million since opening on Oct 3.
Rounding out the top five, the low-budget horror movie Ouija, the top film for the past two weeks, made US$6 million while the Bill Murray-Melissa McCarthy comedy St. Vincent was No.5 with US$5.7 million.