Not even megastar Johnny Depp will be able to stop the onslaught of minions this holiday weekend.
"Despicable Me 2" got off to a gigantic start on Wednesday, the biggest ever for Universal. "The Lone Ranger," the big-budget Disney Western starring Armie Hammer in the title role and Depp as his partner Tonto, couldn't compete whatsoever. "Despicable Me 2" collected an estimated $34.3 million on Wednesday, putting it on track to make as much as $140 million through Sunday. Despite playing in roughly just as many locations, "The Lone Ranger" made just $9.7 million on Wednesday.
The Steve Carrell-led sequel to the 2010 animated blockbuster headed into the holiday with mostly positive reviews (and great deal of enthusiasm from the MTV Movies team, as evidenced by a series of minion-loving gifs). The movie made $4.7 million during Tuesday-night showings. "Despicable Me" eventually grossed more than $543 million around the world and "Despicable Me 2" will easily beat the other big animated movies of 2013 so far, "The Croods" and "Monsters University." The audiences who've seen it already are behind it, giving it an "A-" CinemaScore.
Disney spent a reported $225 million to make "The Lone Ranger," which reunited both the studio and Depp with "Pirates of the Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski. The $45 to $50 million five day total predicted by industry experts will be a major disappointment. Critics have not been kind to "The Lone Ranger," either. More than 75 percent of film critics panned the latest take on the heroic character who first appeared in 1930s radio programs, followed by a series of books and a popular TV show.
Several reviews noted what they perceived as miscasting in regard to the role of Tonto. But Depp, who turned 50 last month, had the best of intentions in taking on the character. "Just taking into consideration the way that Native Americans have been portrayed in old-school TV series as sidekicks or savages. I just thought it was a way to flip it completely on its head and an opportunity to send great respect and thanks to the Native Americans for all they've lived through and went through in their existence," Depp told MTV News. "I guess it was to portray the Native American with the integrity and dignity that they deserve."
The huge budget and poor performance of "The Lone Ranger" are reminiscent of the disastrous debut of the studio's sci-fi epic "John Carter," which cost $250 million to make but opened to just $30 million last summer. However, it's important to keep in mind that Disney owns Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, with new entries in the "Star Wars" and "Avengers" universes on the way. If any studio can absorb damage to their perceived value from "Ranger" and "John Carter," it's certainly the Mouse House.
Last year's Video Music Awards host, Kevin Hart, headlined this week's other new release. "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain" is projected to make about $18 million over its first five days (it already made $4.8 million Wednesday in just 876 theaters). It cost about 1 percent of "The Lone Ranger" budget to produce. "Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain" made $7.7 million in 2011.
There's still holdovers "Monsters University," "The Heat," "World War Z," "This is the End" and "Man of Steel" on offer this weekend, as well, which should make for a very lucrative Fourth of July holiday run.
Check out everything we've got on "Despicable Me 2."