This weekend the $50 million-budgeted Fox/Reel FX film The Book of Life, opened in the United States with an estimated $17 million. It’s a similar opening to Focus Features/Laika’s The Boxtrolls, which bowed to $17.3 million last month. However, the Jorge Gutierrez-directed Book of Life opened in nearly 400 less theaters, giving the film a significantly higher per-theater average than Box trolls ($5,537 vs. $4,987).

The Book of Life opening, which was enough for third place at the U.S. box office, is quite respectable for an animated feature not produced by one of the Big Six (Disney/Pixar/DreamWorks/Illumination/Blue Sky/Sony Pictures Animation). It is remarkably difficult for a film not made by one of these producers and backed by their respective distribution machines to crack the $20 million mark, with only 4 films managing that feat in the last five years: Happy Feet Two ($21.2 million), The LEGO Movie ($69.1 million), Rango ($38.1 million), and Gnomeo and Juliet ($25.3 million).

Deadline Hollywood reported further on Book of Life’s box office performance:

“It was a labor of love for Guillermo [del Toro] and Jorge [Gutierrez], and I think it manifests itself in the amount of voice talent they were able to amass,” said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution for Fox. Voice talent for this visual stunner (the detail is incredible) included Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, and Ice Cube, to name a few. “The themes of the movie are universal even though they are rooted in Mexican culture,” he added. The film’s demo make-up was 30% Hispanic (which is higher than the norm but very representative of the film’s story), 57% female and 43% male. Also, 54% was — not surprisingly — under 25 years old. Of the kids demo, 59% were under 10 years old. “The one constant, regardless of age or gender was that it was 4.5 stars all the way through with a very high definite recommend,” said Aronson.

Internationally, Book of Life earned $8.6 million, including a second place debut in Mexico with $3.4 million and $2 million from Brazil. The film is expected to play well in Mexico through the Day of the Dead holiday, which takes place at the end of October.

Laika’s The Boxtrolls added an extra $2.7 million in the U.S., boosting its domestic total to $46.1 million, and $3.1 million from international territories for a $36.1 million total. Its global gross stands at $82.2 million with a couple dozen territories yet to come; previous global earnings for Laika films were $124.6 million for Coraline and $107.1 million for ParaNorman.

Finally, GKIDS launched Isao Takahata’s The Tale of The Princess Kaguya in three U.S. theaters with a gross of $51,700. The film’s $17,233 per-theater average is the highest ever recorded by GKIDS for a film in 3 or more theaters.