This weekend, toon bad guy Gru dominated the box office with a gargantuan debut for his animated sequel Despicable Me 2 which drove the marketplace to a new record for the Independence Day holiday frame. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp attracted disappointing numbers to his new summer tentpole The Lone Ranger which finished in second. People caught up on a wide variety of holdovers (and free air conditioning) as the top ten surged to a scorching $218M.
Universal overperformed and took in an estimated $82.5M this weekend for its toon giant Despicable Me 2 with the full debut period clocking in at an astounding $142.1M since its first shows starting at 7:00pm on Tuesday evening. The PG-rated smash averaged a sizzling $20,645 over the Friday-to-Sunday portion from 3,997 theaters. By comparison, the summer’s other big animated sequel Monsters University grossed $105.3M in its first five days, although over a non-holiday period.
The first Despicable debuted three years ago in July 2010 to $56.4M and was a leggy hit finishing with nearly five times its opening with $251.5M. Fan love for Gru and his Minions grew over the years and now the sequel has capitalized on it. And like Shrek 2 before it, DM2 scored huge numbers by being both a toon for families and a mainstream comedy for teens and young adults.
Reviews were quite good for a sequel and audiences gave a big thumbs up with a glowing A grade from CinemaScore. Studio research showed that the crowd was 60% female and 55% under 25. With a $76M production cost, DM2 is sure to be a major moneymaker spawning more sequels (and fat paychecks) for Steve Carell and company. Universal already has a spin-off film for the Minions on the calendar for December 2014.
International grosses were fantastic too. Despicable Me 2 grossed a stellar $88.8M over the weekend from 45 markets pushing the overseas take to $151.1M and the global gross to an eye-popping $293.2M with much more to come. Reaching the billion mark cannot be ruled out at this point.
Debuting in second place with less than spectacular results was Johnny Depp’s big-budget Western adventure film The Lone Ranger with an estimated $29.4M over three days and $48.9M since its Tuesday night launch at 7:00pm. Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the PG-13 period pic even opened below the $70.6M five-day launch of the team’s Pirates of the Caribbean from ten years ago this very month. Factor in a decade worth of ticket price increases and the audience was roughly half the size.
Reviews were very negative and a film based on the Lone Ranger brand was not exactly something audiences were asking for. Last summer, Dark Shadows proved that ticket buyers will no longer come out automatically to see Depp do yet another eccentric role. The film actually needs to be good and look compelling. With a reported production budget of at least $215M not counting an aggressive marketing push, this is a huge investment from Disney which will be difficult to recoup. The CinemaScore was a B+ which was decent, but nothing special. And new action films will open every Friday over the next several weeks so the road ahead looks treacherous for Tonto.
Overseas, Lone Ranger opened in 24 markets representing only 30% of the international marketplace so it was not a full upfront roll-out. The weekend delivered $24.3M with a global take so far of $73.2M. Russia easily led with $6.6M while key markets Australia, Italy, and Korea were not impressive.
The Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy cop comedy The Heat held up well in its second weekend taking in an estimated $25M slipping only 36% thanks to a potent combo of a holiday session plus solid buzz. With $86.4M so far, look for the Fox hit to reach $150M or more.
Disney and Pixar’s Monsters University took a direct hit from the Minions tumbling 57% to an estimated $19.6M after spending back-to-back weekends at number one. Cume sits at $216.1M while the global tally crossed $400M. Brad Pitt captured an estimated $18.2M with the zombie thriller World War Z, off 39%, putting Paramount at $158.8M to date domestic and $366.2M worldwide.
More action offerings followed for those moviegoers who wanted their fireworks on the big screen this weekend. Sony’s actioner White House Down dropped a reasonable 46% to an estimated $13.5M and $50.5M total. Man of Steel was still in eight-digit territory with an estimated $11.4M in its fourth round, down 45%, for a $271.2M sum. $300M domestic is still within reach.
The standup comedy concert Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain made a sparkling debut with an estimated $10.1M from 876 theaters for a superb three-day average of $11,530. Since its Wednesday launch, the R-rated Lionsgate release has banked an impressive $17.5M after just five days. That’s already more than twice the $7.7M total gross from the comedian’s last concert pic Laugh at My Pain which played in under 300 theaters. The success of that low-budget hit opened the door to Explain getting a high profile holiday slot and triple the theaters and the gamble paid off.
Sony’s doomsday comedy hit This is the End followed with an estimated $5.8M, off just 33%, for a $85.6M cume to date heading towards the century mark. Rounding out the top ten was the sleeper success Now You See Me which fell 51% to an estimated $2.8M giving Lionsgate $110.4M so far.
As if ruling the holiday box office wasn’t enough, Steve Carell also made an impressive debut on the specialty scene with the indie comedy The Way, Way Back which opened to an estimated $575,000 from 19 theaters across eight markets for a potent $30,263 average for Fox Searchlight. The critically acclaimed summer vacation pic expands to most other major cities over the next two weeks.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $218.3M which was up 23% from last year when The Amazing Spider-Man opened at number one with $62M; and up a healthy 55% from 2011 when Transformers: Dark of the Moon debuted in the top spot with $47.1M.